Introduction and background
The first published reference to the “Matron of Wellington Hospital” appeared in the NZ Spectator & Cook’s Strait Guardian on 18 April 1849:
In fact the only staff employed at the hospital in those early years were Dr J P Fitzgerald and two attendants, Mr John and Mrs Sarah Jacob. Whilst officially there was no ‘matron’ on staff, the Jacobs were known for their kindliness toward the patients and no doubt many thought of Sarah as ‘the Matron’.
The dictionary definition of the word ‘Matron’ is: -
“a woman in charge of domestic and medical arrangements at a boarding school or other institution.”
Sarah Jacob would have attended the patients – ie. nursed them – and carried out all necessary domestic duties.
The plans for the second Thorndon hospital included a room designated for the ‘Matron’. However, staffing remained much as before – James Green and his wife Dorah were now the attendants though by 1859 they were supported by an assistant attendant (Daniel Sullivan), a cook and a laundress. Mr Green also acted as the Dispenser.
It was not until the 1870s that there is mention of a Matron being employed.
Mrs Westfield held that position to 1878 followed by Mrs Gillespie and in January 1879, Selina Sutherland was appointed Matron. Finally, Mrs Mary Baillie was appointed in December 1880 and when the first Newtown Hospital opened in June 1881, she became the first Matron of that institution.
The associated pages contain mini-biographies of successive matrons at the Newtown based hospital. They are arranged in chronological order and at this stage cover the first 100 years of the Newtown hospital.
Where information has been available I have included Sub-Matrons, Assistant Matrons and temporary appointments.