Eleanor Bourne

Eleanor Elizabeth Bourne (1878-1957), medical practitioner, was born at South Brisbane on 4 December 1878, eldest child of Jane Elizabeth (born Hockings) and John Sumner Pears Bourne, clerk in the Land Commission Court. She was educated at the Brisbane Central School for Girls, the Leichhardt State School and the Brisbane Grammar School. She passed the 1896 senior examination with distinction, winning the Grahame and the John West gold medals. The government exhibition awarded her to the University of Sydney was the first to a woman. She graduated MB BS in 1903.

In 1903-07 Dr Bourne was resident medical officer at the Women's Hospital, Sydney, at the Brisbane General Hospital, where she was the first woman resident, and at the Hospital for Sick Children, Brisbane. In 1907 she entered general practice at 69 Wickham Terrace, serving as honorary out-patient physician to the children's hospital and as an anaesthetist. In January 1911 she was appointed the first medical officer in the Department of Public Instruction. She saw medical inspection as 'likely to do its work, more by relieving slight defects in a large number of children than by making a few improvements in marked and startling conditions'. In 1910-11 she visited Charleville, Cunnamulla, Thargomindah, Augathella, Eulo, Blackall, Longreach and Barcaldine; in 1912 she worked in northern Queensland, particularly in the Cairns and Mackay districts. The results of her research on hookworm disease, published in the annual school medical report, were used in the Rockefeller-financed hookworm survey of northern Queensland; she also reported on ophthalmia in the western area. She prepared a brochure on diet which was distributed to parents of all school children.

Disagreements with the Department, her heavy workload and her desire for war service, led to her application for leave in January 1916. She went to England at her own expense and served as a lieutenant of the Royal Army Medical Corps in the Endell Street military hospital in London, which was staffed entirely by women. Promoted major in 1917, she became medical officer to Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps.

She gained her Diploma of Public Health (1920) from the Royal College of Physicians and of Surgeons and was appointed assistant medical officer to the city of Carlisle, with responsibility for organising child welfare services, the new maternity hospital and associated maternal welfare services. In 1928 she applied for the position of Commonwealth director of maternal hygiene and children's welfare in Australia. She was offered the position on a salary range of 800-900 pounds; when she asked to be appointed on the 1200-1400 pounds salary range of other directors (all of whom were men), the Australian government secured the services of Dame Janet Campbell on secondment from the British Government. Dr Bourne remained at Carlisle until June 1937 when she resigned in ill health. She returned to Queensland to live at Manly. She never married.

She was made an honorary life member of the British Medical Association. Her family had supported the Women's College within the University of Queensland from its foundation in 1914 and the Bourne wing was named in their honour. She was life vice-president of the standing committee and donated 1000 pounds to the College shortly before she died on 23 May 1957.

Jacqueline Bell