Members of the Victorian Medical Women's Society, 1896 (reproduction made in 1987)
Dr Constance Stone, the first female doctor to practise in Australia, founded the Victorian Medical Women's Society on 22 March 1895. She was joined by Emily Mary Page Stone, Grace Clara Stone, Lilian Alexander, Margaret Whyte, Elizabeth O'Hara, Annie O'Hara, Grace Vale and Helen Sexton. These women challenged existing perceptions that women were unsuitable for learning and practising medicine, and held monthly meetings in the East Melbourne home of Dr Stone. The society remains active to this day and is one of the oldest organisations inteh world for medical women.
The aims of the society were to improve the health or all people, but with a focus on women and children in Victoria; and to provide professional development opportunities, mentoring and support to other female medical students and doctors. The medical women discussed scientific approaches to social reform. Having already had to overcome their own challenges in order to be accepted into university and then gain medical employment, they here planted the seed for the creation of a hospital for women run by women. In 1899, Queen Victoria Hospital was was established, funded by the women of Victoria through the state run 'shilling' fund. All women were encouraged to donate a shilling towards the purchase of the building that was to house their hospital, in which female graduates were given the chance to work.
The Victorian Medical Women's Society established links with other state run organisations, and the Australian Federation of Medical Women was formed in 1927. As early as 1919, the Medical Women's International Association came into being, founded at the first international congress of medical women held in New York. Medical women from around the globe were thus linked through the sister organisations. The collective voice of medical women continues to advocate for women and to raise the benchmark for health around the world though the United Nations.
Research conducted in 2013 revised identification of the women in the photograph to: Standing: (back row) Janet Greig, Constance Stone, Lilian Alexander; Seated on chairs: Amy de Castilla, Emily Mary Page Stone, Helen Sexton, Clara Stone, Jean Greig; Seated on steps: Alfreda Gamble and Bertha Main.
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