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Queen Victoria Hospital Founders

These women challenged conventions, empowered themselves and set about providing an entirely new way of offering better health services for women.

Honour Roll

It is difficult to imagine the challenges faced by women in becoming doctors in the 1800s. Yet the tenacity of a group of formidable ladies who had a great vision was to change the course of history and set a benchmark for women's health in Victoria and indeed the world. These 10 remarkable and visionary women join fellow Queen Victoria Hospital founders Dr Constance Stone (2001 inductee) and social worker Annette Bear-Crawford (2007 inductee) on the Victorian Honour Roll of Women:

  • Dr Emily Mary Page Stone 1865 - 1910
  • Dr Bertha Main (Lady Leitch) 1873 - 1957
  • Dr Elfreda Hilda Gamble 1871 - 1947
  • Dr Marie Elizabeth Amy Castilla 1868 - 1899
  • Dr Hannah Mary Helen Sexton 1863 - 1950
  • Dr Gertrude Halley 1867 - 1939
  • Dr Janet Lindsay Greig 1874 - 1950
  • Dr Jane Stocks Greig 1872 - 1939
  • Dr Lilian Helen Alexander 1862 - 1934
  • Dr Grace Clara Stone 1860 - 1957

As pioneers in their field, these women challenged conventions, empowered themselves and set about providing an entirely new way of offering better health services for women. They realised there was an urgent need for medical assistance specifically for women and set about establishing a medical service for women run by women.

Historical documents show that in September 1896, Dr Constance Stone took the first tentative steps by inviting these women to meet in her home. They supported her resolution to establish a hospital and one month later the Victoria Hospital - named after the state - opened three mornings a week in St David's Hall in La Trobe Street, in the very heart of Melbourne.

When created it was the first in Australia and one of only three hospitals in the world to have been founded, managed and staffed by women. Their idea was revolutionary and they treated the poorest of women, gave out medicine free and were not paid for their services.

Recognising a need to expand, the women then supported an idea to ask every Victorian woman to donate a shilling to fund a new hospital. Marking the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign, the Queen's Shilling Fund, as it was called, raised enough money for the renamed Queen Victoria Hospital to move to Mint Place in 1899. Further successful Shilling Appeals were made over the following decades to acquire land and buildings for the hospital, and in 1951 the Queen Victoria Hospital was the biggest in the British Commonwealth.

"The story of the Queen Victoria Hospital began in the way that so many women's campaigns begin - a group of visionary women met in someone's home to plan a way to improve life for women less fortunate," said Barbara Jennings, member of the Queen Victoria Women's Centre Trust.

In 1979 the Queen Victoria became the first hospital in the state to introduce a birth centre and in 1986 as part of moves to decentralise hospital and other government services, it became part of the Monash Medical Centre. Reminiscent of these pioneering women who established the hospital, a new generation of tenacious women stepped in to save the tower building of the hospital from redevelopment works.

Today, the spirit which bore the Queen Victoria Hospital lives on in the home of the Queen Victoria Women's Centre, a physical and virtual home of information and services specifically for women across Victoria. "These amazing women made a very significant contribution to women's health care in the state and leave an inspiring legacy for all Victorian women," Barbara said.