Ella Spencer Donovan 1912 - 2008

With the death of Dr Ella Donovan at 96 the Branch has lost its oldest and longest-serving member. Ella joined the NSW Branch of the AMA in 1936, and had been a member of the AMA and its precursors for more than 72 years.

Times change, and it is inevitable that anyone who lived for more than 96 years had life experiences that today seem almost alien. Ella was, for example, born in the family home on College Street, Sydney, opposite Hyde Park: there have been high-rise buildings there for several decades now. And she was married at the fourth attempt, the first three having been frustrated for want of a groom: he was at sea on active service in World War II.

Ella Spencer Windeyer was the eldest child of Dr John (Jack) Windeyer and his wife Aileen. Dr Windeyer was to become the first Professor of Obstetrics at the University of Sydney, later Dean, and also one of the founders of the RCOG in Australia, now the RACOG. Both her parents had medical ancestors, in the Hunter Valley and in Balmain, so it was hardly a surprise that she studied Medicine in Sydney. She subsequently trained for the MRCOG, in Manchester.

Returning from England after the outbreak of war, Ella resumed work as Superintendent of The Women’s Hospital, Crown Street. She soon became engaged to Lieutenant-Commander Jack Donovan RAN, eventually married, and started a family. It being wartime, she worked until the day before her first confinement.

Ella did not resume clinical work for nearly 15 years, when she became a Staff Specialist at the outpatient department of The Women’s Hospital, in one of Sydney’s first well-woman clinics. She stayed in that post for more than twenty years.

After retirement Ella and Jack moved to Canberra to be closer to the 8 grandchildren they then had. Ella remained active until after her 90th birthday, when progressive memory loss and decreasing mobility took their toll. She died peacefully in Jindalee Nursing home on 1 December 2008.

Jack Donovan died in 1984. Ella is survived by her four children, 12 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren. The doctors among her descendants are her eldest son John Donovan (Canberra) and granddaughters Caroline Donovan (now Stewart, GP, Launceston) and Julia Hanna (Psychiatrist, Adelaide).

John Donovan