Clare Ashton

Honorary Associate, Researcher Nursing History Research Unit


Clare is a New Zealand trained general nurse and midwife, her nursing practice has been in operating theatres, psychiatry, maternity, general medical practice and on ships at sea. She has also worked as a research assistant, web developer and exhibition curator. She has exhibited ‘Nurse installations’, created with health and medical ephemera. Much of her work in organizations has been as a volunteer; council member of the association that is now the New Zealand Nurses Organisation; founder of Guardians of Pauatahanui Inlet, an award winning conservation organization; founding secretary of Friends of Porirua Hospital Museum and now researching nursing history. In 2015 Clare conducted a voyage in the Aegean to commemorate the Anzac nurses of the First World War.

Areas of expertise

  • ANZAC nurses of the First World War
  • Karitane NSW 1923-2000
  • The history of nurse regulation in New Zealand
  • Voluntary work in 19th and 20th century

Current research

The lives of the ANZAC First World War Army Nurses: The first matron of Tresillian and founder of Karitane in NSW Miss F E McMillan, was an Army nurse throughout the war and worked on Lemnos in 1915. Her later life was tragic raising questions about the later lives of the ex-Army nurses post-war.

The life of Mary Truby King 1904-2001: She worked in 1930s Sydney furthering the mothercraft methods of her father Sir Truby King.


‘Commemorating the Anzac Nurses.’ Kai Tiaki New Zealand Nursing, 2015, 21:3, 2.

‘Remembering the ANZAC Nursing Sisters: a centenary voyage in the wake of the nursing sisters who cared for the sick and injured in the Aegean in 1915’ The Bulletin of the UKAHN, 2014, 3, 5-21.

‘Historical Novel or ‘Chick Lit’?’, Conference Proceedings, Australia and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine, Darwin, July 2013, 326-349.

'Karitane Products Society Factory Surry Hills', Dictionary of Sydney, 2013.

'The Nurse in Grey and Scarlet: 1941', Exhibition Review, Health and History, 14:1 191-194.

'Karitane in the Twentieth Century', Dictionary of Sydney, 2011

'Inside 'inside' lives: inside the medical 'family' of New Zealand's Mental Hospital Service 1917-1920.' In Telling lives: essays in biography and history, eds Colebourne, C, M Houlahan and H Morrison, 131-149. Hamilton, New Zealand: Departments of History and Humanities, University of Waikato, 2006.


Commemorating the First World War’s Nurses - Centenary Reflections, September 2015. With Professor Christine Hallett and Susan Sherson, at the American Association for the History of Nursing Conference, Dublin, Ireland, September 2015.

The Iconic First World War Nurse: History and Fiction. Campsie Library, City of Canterbury, NSW, May 2015.

Kitten for comfort: an Australian nursing sister on Lemnos 1915 City of Sydney Historical Association, Sydney Mechanics Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, May 2015.

Remembering the ANZAC Nursing Sisters: a centenary voyage in the wake of the nursing sisters who cared for the sick and injured in the Aegean in 1915. ‘New Zealand in the First World War’, New Zealand Studies Network Conference, University of London, July 2014.

Reading Emotion in the Images of World War One: Sister McMillan and her Gallipoli Kitten, ‘Rethinking War: Is there anything new that can be said about the First World War?’ Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, November 2013

Historical novel or ‘chick-lit’? New Zealand’s World War One Army nurses and the problematic relationship of history with fiction, 13th biennial conference of the Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine, Darwin, July 2013

Kitten and koala; threads of a normal life for the Australian World War I Sisters, presented at the Australian College of Nursing, Inaugural History Conference, Melbourne, November 2012

How much do mothers matter? The case of the Registered Mothercraft Nurse in New South Wales Australia, 'Nursing History in a Global Perspective' Conference, Kolding, Denmark, August 2012

What the ‘new’ social history did to Dr King – evaluating Olssen’s "Truby King and the Plunket Society: an analysis of a prescriptive ideology”’ , presented at Past Tensions: Reflections on Making History, New Zealand Historical Association Conference Hamilton, New Zealand November 2011

'War is good for babies': how Europe’s World War One shaped mothercraft services in New South Wales, Australia, 'International Perspectives in the History of Nursing Conference, London, England, September 2010

Faithful followers of fashion? Interpreting Karitane, College of Nursing, Burwood NSW, October 2008