Lake Macquarie History

Maternity Hospitals of Lake Macquarie

New South Wales at the beginning of the 20th century experienced a time of much change and improvement to the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth.

One of the resons for the growing concern was the findings of "The Royal Commission on the Decline of the Birth-Rate and on the Mortality of Infants in New South Wales" which was held in 1904. The aim of this enquiry was to find ways to reduce the deaths of women in childbirth, especially those occuring within one month of confinement where numbers were unduly high.

photo: nurse dick belmont

As a result, the modern system of hospitalised birth overseen by doctors, physicians and nurses was gradually established in public metropolitan hospitals in Sydney. Financial constraints imposed by the two world wars, meant that this system did not spread to the rest of New South Wales until the middle of the twentieth century.

Such financial constraints did not mean children stopped being born in country areas. The population explosion after World War II - the so-called `Baby Boom' - as well as the impact of Australia's mass post-war migration scheme created large and unmet demand for maternity care and accomodation outside of the major cities.

In the Hunter region several midwives took advantage of this and set up private lying-in or maternity hospitals in private residences, where they cared for women in childbirth. Not only did these women show considerable enterprise as successful businesswomen, they did so in a region with a predominantly male-oriented work and industrial culture.

These establishments are listed as place of birth on many birth certificates up until the late 1950s. Their numbers declined after the establishment of public maternity hospitals in the region such as Western Suburbs Maternity Hospital (1939), Belmont Hospital (1968) and expansion of the Mater Hospital (Waratah) Midwifery section in the 1940s.

Midwives and Private Hospitals-Lake Macquarie area

Nurse Name of hospital Address where known
Nurse Alice Burch Acacia 230 Pacific Highway Charlestown (no longer standing)
Nurse Pascoe Acacia 230 Pacific Highway Charlestown (no longer standing)
Nurse Marjorie Patterson Cnr Stuart Street and Pacific Highway Charlestown (no longer standing)
Nurse Hilda Hawkins Kelvin First Street (became Council Street) Speers Point
Nurse Hilda Hawkins Alistor Main Street Speers Point
Nurse Esther Ally Macquarie Private Hospital Main Road Speers Point. (or Boolaroo)
Nurse Lydia Hoole Ormonde 13 The Esplanade Speers Point (no longer standing)
Nurse Margaret Dick Roslyn George Street Belmont
Sister Kingsbury Warrigal Street Toronto
Nurse Emily Olive Swansea
Nurse Jane Torode Main Road Catherine Hill Bay
Nurse Blanche Nelson Halcyon Charlton Street Barnsley
Nurse Lower Elrington Macquarie Street Morisset
Nurse Conley Corranbong
Nurse Rosina Kelly Denny Main Road Cardiff
Nurse Hilda Coleman Denny Main Road Cardiff
Nurse Ellen Torrance Glen Ayr Apple Tree Road West Wallsend.

photo: halcyon maternity hospital

Sources

Midwifery in the Lower Hunter River district 1940-1960: Female entrepreneurial activities in a masculine work world / Paula Watts and John Ramsland. Article from the Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Volume 88 Part2, December 2002

Reasearch papers of H Ling, Newcastle Family History Society.