When the hospital in Newtown opened in June 1881, there were just eight patient attendants (‘nurses’), namely two head wardsmen, two under wardsmen, one night wardsman, one head nurse, one night nurse and one fever nurse. All were untrained, and all were resident, living at the back of each ward. This situation would soon be radically changed with the arrival in 1883 of Mrs Bernard Moore as Lady Superintendent (Matron).

Mrs Bernard Moore, who elected to use her late husband’s name, was born Fanny Maria Skeels. When she arrived in Auckland from England in January 1881, she was the holder of two certificates of Proficiency from St John of Jerusalem. From September 1881, she began offering courses of four lectures for women in Home Nursing of the Sick at 10 shillings/course. It is noteworthy that attending one of these lectures was Dr William G Kemp, honorary physician Wellington Hospital who was visiting Auckland at that time. He was prompted to praise Mrs Moore in a letter to the NZ Herald on 1st October, 1881.

The lectures were very popular and before long demand for them extended to other towns including Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin.

In December 1882, Mrs Moore was invited to become Lady Superintendent of Wellington Hospital, a position that she took up in January 1883. She had no prior hospital nursing experience but this did not deter her from establishing New Zealand’s first training school for hospital nurses. It is likely that Dr Kemp had a hand in securing Mrs Moore’s appointment.

Mrs Moore and the Resident Surgeon Dr Samuel Hammond provided lectures to student nurses in the care of patients. By the end of 1883, the course completed, eight of the students sat and passed an examination set by Dr Hector, the Government Scientist.

The graduate nurses presented Mrs Moore with an illuminated address expressing their gratitude.

After some administrative delays, they received their certificates. Shown here is Nurse Elizabeth Begg and her certificate.


Four of the other graduating nurses are seen here


Dr Hammond was abruptly dismissed by the Hospital Trustees at the end of 1883, on the basis of complaints from patients and honorary visiting medical staff. Hammond was given no opportunity to defend himself and in protest, Mrs Moore resigned as Lady Superintendent. In a letter to the editor of the Evening Post, Dr Hammond praised the work of Mrs Moore.

Last updated 15 January 2019.