Sunday, 15 September 2019

Neither Mischievous nor Meddlesome

A new book by Trisha Fielding. Available now!

This is the fascinating story of a group of North Queensland women who tirelessly devoted their lives to the service of others, but have largely been forgotten by the communities in which they lived and worked. Even though doctors thought many midwives were mischievous and meddlesome, and actively sought to eradicate them, it was women who dominated in the provision of midwifery services in the North. It was midwives who built and operated private general hospitals and conducted lying-in hospitals from their own homes, all before the advent of government-funded maternity hospitals. 
This book examines the courageous lives of the women who quietly went about their duties with dignity and grace, though they were often faced with the same challenges as their patients – the perils of childbirth, loneliness and isolation, and frequent tragedy.
The midwife has rarely been given her due, until now. Trisha Fielding has delivered a surprising, sometimes shocking, insight into an indispensable medical specialty dominated by enterprising women. 
Ian Townsend – author of Line of FireThe Devil’s Eye, and Affection.
Available at these stockists:
  • Mary Who? Bookshop, 414 Flinders Street Townsville
  • Townsville Museum & Historical Society, 1/27 Barbeler Street, Currajong
  • Museum of Tropical Queensland, Townsville
  • The Paper Shop, 86 Cartwright Street, Ingham
  • Cairns Museum, Cnr Lake and Shields Streets, Cairns
  • State Library of Queensland Library Shop, Stanley Place, Southbank, Brisbane
Order direct from the author by emailing with your name and contact details.
Neither Mischievous nor Meddlesome: the remarkable lives of North Queensland's independent midwives 1890-1940, by Trisha Fielding
  • Published by North Queensland History Press 2019
  • ISBN  978-0-6484839-2-2 (paperback) RRP $40 + $10 postage & handling*
  • ISBN  978-0-6484839-1-5 (limited edition hardcover - numbered & signed - only available from the author) Please contact me via email if you are interested in buying a copy of the hardcover edition. FREE postage on the hardcover edition!
*  To anywhere in Australia. Contact the author for an estimate of overseas postage.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Influenza outbreaks remembered - 100 years on

2019 marks the centenary of the outbreak of Influenza in North Queensland in 1919. It was the same illness that had been sweeping the globe since the end of the First World War and would ultimately go on to claim the lives of somewhere between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide. The virulent form of pneumonic influenza - known as "Spanish Influenza" - reached Australia in early 1919, coinciding with the return of the soldiers of the AIF to Australia. 
SS Morialta. Photo: State Library of South Australia B-61166.
In May 1919, cases of Influenza were reported in Townsville. Passengers aboard the steamship Morialta were thought to be the source of infection.[1] Free inoculation against the disease was offered and 6,000 locals took up the offer. Dr Walter Nisbet, Townsville's Medical Officer of Health, estimated that somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 of Townsville's citizens (or 25 per cent of the population) contracted the illness in some form.[2] Eighteen people died in the outbreak, ten of those in hospital and eight in private homes. 

As in other cities throughout Australia, strict rules were imposed on Townsville's population to try and curb transmission of the illness. Public meetings were banned, picture theatres and schools were closed and the main city streets were sprayed with disinfectant. Townsville North State School (now Belgian Gardens State School) was requisitioned for use as an isolation hospital. The Army supplied and erected tents in the school grounds. Over a period of ten weeks, a total of 195 patients were treated at the makeshift hospital. A second isolation hospital was opened at St. Anne's School in June and remained in use for one month and three days. During that time, 108 patients were treated there.[3]

In a letter to the Mayor of Townsville dated 15th August 1919, Dr Nisbet praised the efforts of the Matron in charge of the isolation hospital at Townsville North State School - Hannah Sarah Pengelly. He wrote: 
"The ideal and harmonious working of this hospital, chiefly with a band of young untrained workers, shows what women can do in an emergency. A large share of praise is also due to the tactful and untiring energies of the matron – Nurse Pengelly."[4]
Matron Pengelly is buried in the West End Cemetery in Townsville.

Headstone of Hannah Sarah Pengelly, died 6 December 1940. Photo: T. Fielding
In Cairns, the outbreak began in June 1919. Again, the carrier was from a steamship in port, though this time it was the ship's Captain, not a passenger, that had the virus. Captain Tyree, of the SS Allinga, was not diagnosed with Influenza until after he had spent a full day in the city, and within just days, twenty cases had been reported.[5]
SS Allinga. Photo: State Library of South Australia PRG 1324788
An isolation hospital, set up in the Girls State School, began taking in patients on 11 June.[6] Matron Mary Gliddon, who had recently moved to Cairns after having left the Mareeba Hospital, volunteered her services as matron of the isolation hospital. She was assisted by Sister Middleton, of the Cairns District Hospital, with Dr Elliott the doctor in charge. By early July, both Matron Gliddon and Dr Elliott (along with four volunteer nurses) had contracted the illness, and were too ill to carry out their duties.[7] This prompted an urgent call for women in the district to volunteer for nursing and domestic duties at the isolation hospital. A report in the Cairns Post on 4 July 1919 implored women, particularly women with no family or domestic responsibilities, to come forward, remarking that:

"the work of the authorities, however comprehensive, cannot be brought to fruition without the special skill that women's effort alone can supplement it with."[8]
By late July, 60 people were being treated for Influenza in the isolation hospital.[9] According to historian Patrick Hodgson, in the three months that Cairns battled the epidemic, there were (officially) 1007 cases of Influenza, resulting in ten deaths.[10]

The isolation hospital at the Girls School was closed in late September 1919. Matron Gliddon went on to run her own private hospital - St. Anthony's Private Hospital - in Cairns, with the help of her mother, Nurse Margaret Gliddon.

[1] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 26 May 1919, p. 4
[2] Townsville Museum collection
[3] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 16 July 1919, p. 6
[4] Townsville City Libraries Local History Collection
[5] Hodgson, Patrick, 'Flu, society and the state: the political, social and economic implications of the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic in Queensland', unpublished PhD thesis, 2017, James Cook University, p. 217.
[6] Cairns Post 12 June 1919, p. 4.
[7] Cairns Post 4 July 1919, p. 4.
[8] Cairns Post 4 July 1919, p. 5.
[9] Northern Herald 30 July 1919, p. 10.
[10] Hodgson, Patrick, 'Flu, society and the state', p. 18

Monday, 6 May 2019

Labour Day / Eight Hour Day

In North Queensland in the early 1900s, the Eight Hour Day procession, or “demonstration” as it was called, was a precursor to later Labour Day parades and was designed to celebrate the attainment of the eight-hour working day in Queensland in 1856.
One of the Butchers’ Union floats in the Eight Hour Day Procession at Charters Towers, May 1914.
Source: State Library of Queensland 
The eight hour day had been a hard won battle based on the principle of eight hours toil, eight hours rest, and eight hours recreation for all workers. Early processions involved elaborately decorated floats showcasing union banners and working trade displays, which made their way through main streets, and were followed by a competitive sports carnival that was open to all.

The day was just as much about unionists displaying pride in their trade or occupation as it was about a show of industrial solidarity. 

In most towns throughout the north, Eight Hour Day processions were celebrated with gusto, and in 1914, the Charters Towers newspaper The Evening Telegraph, reported on the largest Eight Hour Day Parade the town had seen so far.

“Monday morning broke fine and clear for the celebration of Eight Hour Day on Charters Towers. Thday was observed as a general holiday, and at an early hour people flocked into the main street to view the procession.

Larger crowds turned out than for any previous May Day, and both sides of the streets along the route of the procession were densely crowded with spectators. The long procession started from the Union Hall shortly before 10 am, with the Fire Brigade Band marching at the head of the procession.”

Following behind were a variety of trade unions, including the Bakers float, which had a representation of a brick oven and a number of bakers on the lorry who were engaged in the operations of their trade. At places along the route they handed out buns to the people lining the streets. 
Float of the Federated Enginedrivers and Firemens Association, in the Eight Hour Day Procession, Charters Towers, 1914.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
The Engine Drivers’ Association had their fine banner erected on a four-horse lorry, with about 50 members in attendance, and the Typographical Union had a number of printers at work on a two-horse lorry, issuing copies of the “Eight Hour Day Times” as they proceeded.

But it was the Butchers’ Union that stole the show. According to The Evening Telegraph:

“The Butchers had their handsome banner on a two-horse lorry, followed by a four-horse lorry with a representation of a shop well filled with beef and mutton, a two-horse lorry with a profuse display of smallgoods, a two-horse lorry with a slaughter house, in which a bullock was killed, skinned and divided on the route, and another two-horse lorry with a slaughter house, in which six sheep were killed and dressed.” 

This must have been quite the spectacle and undoubtedly the floats that followed –including the Horticultural Society with its lorry decorated with flowers, evergreens, and a display of fruit and vegetables; and a two-horse lorry, with the Military Nurses display showing two nurses attending to patients lying on stretchers – must have seemed pretty mundane compared to the Butchers’ Union floats.

The procession marched from the Union Hall to the railway station and then back to the show grounds where judging of the floats took place. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Butchers’ Union took out first place, winning £8 in prize money.