Early women students

Elsie Jean Dalyell

With two other women, Elsie Jean Dalyell graduated Bachelor of Medicine with First-Class Honours in 1909, the first women in the Faculty to do so.


Her early years

Elsie Jean Dalyell was born on 13 December 1881 at Newtown, Sydney.

She was educated at Sydney Girls' High School and joined the Department of Public Instruction as a pupil-teacher in 1897.

Charlotte Maude Bertie, Abbie Stone and Elsie Jean Dalyell c1890

From left: Charlotte Maude Bertie, Abbie Stone and Elsie Jean Dalyell c1890, photo G3_224_1505, University of Sydney Archives.

Her student days at the University of Sydney

Sponsored by the Department of Public Instruction, she completed first year arts and science at the University of Sydney.

In 1906, she resigned as a teacher and transferred to second year medicine and in 1909 entered the Women's College.

With Mary Burfitt, she undertook original research work in pathology and contributed to a paper on that subject read at the Medical Congress in Victoria.

She graduated Bachelor of Medicine with First Class Honours in December 1909, with the degree conferred at the ceremony held in May 1910, and Master of Surgery in 1910.

Elsie Jean Dalyell

Elsie Jean Dalyell, photo courtesy of State Records NSW, Digital ID: 9873_a025_a025000062.

Her career

Elsie Dalyell followed Jessie Aspinall as a pioneer female resident medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

In 1911-12 she was the first woman on the full-time University of Sydney Medical School staff as demonstrator in pathology.

In December 1912, she was the first Australian woman elected to a Beit travelling scholarship for original research, which she took up at the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine, London in 1913.

In 1916 she joined the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service unit at Royaumont, France, where she was engaged in bacteriological work, and afterwards enlisted with the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in Malta and Salonika, Greece, and was in charge of a laboratory in the 63rd General Hospital, the first occasion where a woman had held such an appointment in the field.

After the war, in early 1919 she was stationed with the army of occupation at Constantinople to deal with cholera, and in June was appointed OBE. She was also decorated by the Serbian Government.

In 1919-22 she worked in Vienna as senior clinician to a research team led by Dr (Dame) Harriette Chick, studying deficiency diseases in children.

She returned to Australia in March 1923, travelling via the USA for a lecture tour on the Vienna research.

Without capital, her attempt at private practice in Macquarie Street failed. In January 1924 she began duty as assistant microbiologist in the Department of Public Health.

Between 1925 and 1935 she was on the committee of the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children and with Dr Maisie Hamilton, was responsible for the venereal diseases clinic which opened there in 1927.

Elsie Jean Dalyell

Elsie Jean Dalyell, photoG3_224_1369, University of Sydney Archives.


By retirement in 1946, Elsie Dalyell was in bad health with hypertensive arterial disease and a weak heart. She died on 1 November 1948.


Information sources
  • National Library of Australia historic newspapers
  • Australian Dictionary of Biography