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Dr Ethel Osborne

Dr Ethel Osborne was a leader in industrial hygiene, particularly in health of female workers and in women's education on health issues.

Honour Roll

Born in England, Ethel Osborne had obtained a science degree before coming to live in Melbourne with her husband after their marriage in 1903. Back in England during World War 1, Ethel served with the British Ministry of Munitions of War. Her wartime research into the health of women munitions' workers resulted in two published reports that had a long term influence on policy.

On returning to Melbourne following the war, Ethel was invited to report to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on the conditions of employment for women workers in the clothing industry for a case which won some workers a forty-four hour week. Ethel studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and shared the Fulton Prize for obstetrics and gynaecology.  After graduating, she practised at the Queen Victoria and Royal Melbourne hospitals. She published her report on the health of female workers in the printing and allied trades industry, which was commissioned by the union. Ethel was also a Commonwealth delegate to the fourth and fifth international congresses on industrial accidents and diseases.

Serving on the council of the College of Domestic Economy (later the Emily McPherson College) from its foundation in 1912, Ethel held the senior positions of treasurer, vice president and president.  The College later recognised Ethel's contribution by naming the assembly hall in its new building after her. With her husband, Ethel pioneered the Australian study of dietetics, which helped to lay the foundation for the subsequent work of the dietary department of St Vincent's Hospital.

Ethel's dedication to education provided the inspiration and direction for much of the curriculum and teaching in the fields of domestic economy and medical dietetics in Australia and internationally.