Lucy Osburn and 21 nursing staff outside the Sydney Hospital, Nightingale Wing in 1870 (Source: The Australian Women’s Weekly courtesy of Sydney Hospital)[1]

The first nursing staff employed by the Parramatta District Hospital were generally untrained and in some cases illiterate. It was only from 1876 that the office of the Matron position was to be appointed to a fully trained nurse and that honour was to go to the lady recommended by Lucy Osborne/Osburn after a request from the Committee of Management of Parramatta District Hospital.

Miss Lucy Osburn (1835-) was head nurse at the Sydney Hospital and its first Lady Superintendent. She arrived in Sydney in 1868 as one of the six nurses Florence Nightingale had trained in England and sent out to the Colony of New South Wales to set up a nurse training school at the Sydney Infirmary at the request of Sir Henry Parkes.

Lady Superintendent Osburn choose Emily Pearson. Pearson was one of first generation of trained nurses in Australia under the Florence Nightingale plan/fund appointed to the position of Matron on 1 March 1876 at a salary of £6.5.0 per month plus board and aparyments. According to the Register of Nurses courtesy of the Sydney Hospital, Mrs Pearson was at the time a 33 years old widow with two children (one in the Randwick Asylum). She was a native of New South Wales, and had not previously been in service. Her deceased husband had a hairdressing shop. She was also Roman Catholic and came as a probationer on 24 October 1871. Her new positioned allowed her children to live with her.

During Mrs Pearson matronage, she made many improvements to the Hospital including in May seeking the Committee to buy cooking utensils, furniture and other items sadly lacking at the Hospital; introducing entirely new attitudes in the proper care and management of the sick. Her humanising effect on the Institution, led to a donation of books, vases, a watering can for the hospital garden and an American easy chair in November 1876. The hospital was cleaned and painted, new bathrooms, pantries, flower gardens and fencing were erected, and at the 1877 annual general meeting, more power to suspend any employee found guilty of misconduct or neglect of duty was given to the matron which by 31 October that year was known as the Superintendent.[3]

In 1879, she re-married George Hope in Paddington and was expecting. Unsatisfied with her decision to put a Mrs Lee in charge while she recovered from giving birth to a daughter without notifying or sanction of the Executive Committee, in January 1880, she lost her appointment at Parramatta and made to resign.[3,4]

She was replaced by Miss Anne Anderson (c.1832-1887), another efficient and devoted nurse trained under Osburn and recommended for the position of Superintendent/Matron. She was described in The Cumberland Mercury (15 October 1887, page 2)[5] as:

“A more devoted nurse never entered the walls of an institution, and she remained there till failing health compelled her to retire. It is no exaggeration to say that this devoted lady considerably shortened her life by the manner in which she worked, day and night.

On 1 January 1881, Miss Osburn gave Mrs Hope (the former Mrs Pearson) the appointment of Matron of Mudgee Hospital. According to former Mudgee Hospital doctor and returning to Parramatta Hospital doctor Dr. Charles Rowling, he observed that Matron Pearson had made many improvements at Mudgee in its design, management and raised its hospital standards.even higher.[4]

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Anne Tsang, Research Assistant, Parramatta Heritage Centre, City of Parramatta 2020

References

  1. Sydney Hospital (n.d.). In 1868, the first trained nurses, headed by Miss Lucy Osburn, arrived from England. Florence Nightingale had selected them to set up a nurses’ training school [Photograph] In Sean Moylan, (compiler). (1976, June 16). Australia 100 years ago: When measles killed, The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 68. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46458748 ; Cama, Nicole (2017, October 25). The Lucy Osburn-Nightingale museum, Dictionary of Sydney. Retrieved from http://home.dictionaryofsydney.org/the%E2%80%8B-%E2%80%8Blucy%E2%80%8B-%E2%80%8Bosburn-nightingale%E2%80%8B-%E2%80%8Bmuseum/
  2. Griffith, John. (1954). ‘Osburn, Lucy (1836–1891)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra, A.C.T.: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved from http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/osburn-lucy-4345/text7055
  3. Cumberland Area Health Service. (1988). Caring for convicts and the community : a history of Parramatta Hospital. Westmead, N.S.W.: Cumberland Area Health Service, p. 38-39, 88.
  4. Graduate Nurses’ Association of the Parramatta District Hospital. (1979). A history of nursing in Parramatta. Parramatta, N.S.W.: PDH Graduate Nurses’ Association, pp. 11-18.
  5. Testimonial to Miss Anderson. (1887, October 15). The Cumberland Mercury, p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248801727