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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Ida Birchall

Significant Tasmanian Women icon

(1906 - 1994)
MBE, B.Sc., MB, FRCS, FRCOG
First Tasmanian woman to become a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

Ida was born on 6 September 1906 in Launceston. Her education began at the Church of England Girl's Grammar School in Launceston, followed by the Methodist Ladies College in Sydney. In 1925 Ida gained a Bachelor of Science degree from Sydney University, where her interest turned to medicine. In 1933 she had achieved an M.B. and B.S., winning the Dagmar Berne prize for proficiency in the subjects of the final examinations for the B.S.

Ida worked at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney in 1933 and the Royal Hospital for Women in 1934. She became the first Tasmanian member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1936. She worked at several prestigious hospitals in the United Kingdom between 1934-1938 and was house-surgeon for 6 months in the gynaecological department at St. Mary's Hospital.

With the outbreak of WW2 she returned to Tasmania and commenced her life's work in private practice with her close friend Dr Devenish-Meares. She was appointed to the Honorary Visiting Staff of the Launceston General Hospital in 1939 and retained the position until 1966.

Dr Birchall worked tirelessly for women with gynaecological problems and with mothers and babies starting practice in a time when there were no antibiotics, proper anaesthetics or sophisticated drugs. She was the first female doctor to be in charge of ante-natal and post-natal clinics and was the first member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Tasmania. In 1969 Dr Birchall was awarded an MBE.

Dr Birchall retired in 1973 and pursued her many other interests until her death in 1994.

Reference:

Veale, V.M., Women Worth Remembering, Launceston: [The Author], 1981?

Links:

Australian Women's Archive Project entry

National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame entry


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