Defying Gender Divides: Trailblazers of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital

Curator name(s):  An exhibition curated by Tori Delany, WCHN History & Heritage Collection Volunteer as part of the 2019 South Australia’s History Festival.

Gallery Location: Level 1, Zone F — just past the Queen Victoria Lecture Theatre

Exhibition dates: May 2019 to end September 2019

Gender stereotypes remain apparent in many areas of life, but especially in occupations. Historically, gender divides have been well entrenched in key healthcare professions.

Medicine was considered a career for men only, until determined women defied social norms and trained as doctors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Medicine is no longer considered a masculine endeavour in Australia, but gender divisions in the fields of nursing and midwifery did not start being bridged until more contemporary times. Men first made their entry into general nurse training in the latter half of the 20th century, and are still a minority in paediatric nursing and midwifery here today.

Image credit: South Australian State Library

The individuals who defied gender status quos to enter their chosen careers often met with barriers and disapproval. This was particularly the case for early female doctors, who had to contend with overt social attitudes that considered women incapable of practising medicine. For the first men entering into nursing and midwifery in South Australia, some of the barriers were perhaps more subtle. History now looks upon these women and men as trailblazers.

With this exhibition, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital celebrates that it can count some of these trailblazing individuals as staff and trainees in the history of its major institutions: the former Adelaide Children’s Hospital, Mothers’ and Babies’ Health Association and Queen Victoria Hospital. It profiles key men and women who blazed the trails, and individuals who followed in their footsteps. The exhibition also introduces a few of our contemporary male midwives, creating tomorrow’s history as they provide expert care for clients of this Hospital today.

Defying Gender Divides: Trailblazers of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital is on display in the Yellow Heart Gallery (Level 1, Zone F) at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital from early May 2019 until the end of September 2019.

For more information download the exhibition brochure.

For enquiries please contact the WCH Foundation by email or phone 08 8464 7900.