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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Dr Constance (Emma) Stone

Significant Tasmanian Women icon

(1856-1902)
The first woman to practice medicine in Australia and a feminist

Dr Stone was born on the 4th of December in 1856 in Hobart and was educated at home before moving to Melbourne. She was forced to study medicine overseas as the University of Melbourne considered medicine unsuitable for mixed classes, even though women had been allowed to study in other fields at that University since 1880.

Constance graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania before achieving an MD from the University of Trinity College, Toronto, Canada, and the Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, London. This latter helped to ensure her registration in Australia.

Whilst in London Dr. Stone worked at the New Hospital for Women and Children which was staffed only by women.

In 1890 Dr. Constance Stone became the first woman to be registered with the Medical Board of Victoria and therefore the first woman registered as a medical practitioner in Australia. She preferred to work with women and children.

Her major achievement was the founding of the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital that started through Stone convincing other women doctors to provide opportunities to poor women to be treated by other women and not male medical students. Annette Bear-Crawford, a suffrage leader, headed the committee that eventually led to the official opening of the hospital in 1899 with money provided by a shilling fund supported by women in Victoria.

Dr. Stone had to take sick leave not long after the opening until her death from tuberculosis in 1902. She was a great inspiration to medical women in Melbourne founding the Victorian Women’s Society in 1895.

Constance was elected to the committees of the Australian Health Society and the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum as well as working with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Young Women’s Christian Association. She was dedicated to women’s suffrage and worked with the Victorian Women’s Franchise League and the United Council for Women’s Suffrage.

Constance Stone had an aim in life to do "useful work in the world" which she certainly succeeded in doing.

References:

Neve, M. Hutton, This Mad Folly: History of Australia’s Pioneer Women Doctors, Library of Australia, 1980

Radi, Heather 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Broadway: Women’s Redress Press Inc., n.d.

Teale, R. (ed), Colonial Eve: Sources of Women in Australia, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1978

Links:

Bright sparcs

National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame entry


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