Women in the Faculty before the turn of the century
From Faculty of Medicine Online Museum and Archive
Before the turn of the century, Jane Foss Russell, who graduated BA in 1886 and MA in 1889, was the only female on the university teaching staff when she was appointed Tutor to Women Students in 1892. Employed by the University, her role extended beyond the Faculty of Medicine, but it was she who provided tutoring to women students enrolled in medicine. Typically, most women students entered the university being inadequately prepared at school in subjects like chemistry and physics, which were part of the medical curriculum. Ms Russell was not only responsible for tutoring women, but also for offering pastoral care and guidance as to their deportment within the University confines.
Dagmar Berne was the first woman to enrol in Medicine in Australia, doing so in the third intake of medical students in 1885. In 1888 she was joined by fellow woman student Iza Coghlan, then Harriett Biffin and Grace Robinson the following year. Dagmar Berne did not graduate at the University of Sydney but rather, travelled to England and completed her studies there. Some records state that this was due to Anderson Stuart's refusal to allow her to pass her final year exams and if that be true, thankfully, the women who enrolled soon after her did not suffer the same prejudice. In 1893, the Faculty's first two women graduates were Iza Coghlan and Grace Robinson. In 1898 they were followed by Harriett Biffin, Ada Affleck, Julia Carlile Thomas and Alice Newton. These women paved the way for other women to enter and graduate in medicine: today more than half of our graduates are women. At the turn of the century, no woman was employed in the Faculty as a teaching academic.
- Next article in timeline: Bubonic Plague comes to Sydney in 1900