Students at the University of Sydney

Early women students

Patricia Kathleen Littlejohn (later Abbott)

Patricia Kathleen Littlejohn (later Abbott) was the first woman to graduate Bachelor of Veterinary Science from the University of Sydney in 1935.

She worked as a teacher in the Faculty, as a veterinary officer and pathologist in Papua New Guinea, and as a pathologist in England.


Her early years

Patricia Kathleen Littlejohn was born on 23 June 1913, the daughter of Albert and Linda Littlejohn. Her mother was a noted
feminist, broadcaster and tireless worker for women's rights.

Patricia spent her childhood in Sydney and attended Ascham School, Darling Point, matriculating in 1930.

Her student days at the University of Sydney

Patricia enrolled in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Sydney University in 1931.

She was a resident of Women's College and took an active part in University life. In 1933 she represented Veterinary Science on the Women's Undergraduates Association committee and became the Sports Secretary and organiser of social events and Vice President of the Women Union Sports Association.

She passed all her annual exams and graduated on 18 May 1935.

Patricia Littlejohn in 1933

Patricia Littlejohn in 1933, photo from 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 21 October 1933, National Library of Australia.

Patricia Kathleen Littlejohn, the first woman Veterinary Science graduate

Patricia Littlejohn at Berry c1934, photo, Faculty of Veterinary Science website.

Her career

After her graduation and subsequent registration as a veterinary surgeon in 1935, Patricia remained at the Faculty as a Demonstrator in Anatomy - assistant to Dick Webb for three years - during which time she studied and published on the preputial muscles of the pig. She also remained involved with the Women's Union as coach of the basketball teams.

After Patricia married Dr Terry K Abbott in 1937 they moved to England where he did a postgraduate course. On his return to Australia he joined the Colonial Service.

Her husband's postings with the British Colonial Service took them to Hong Kong, from where they were evacuated back to Australia when the Japanese advanced in the World War II. For six months during the war, she returned to her old job as lecturer at the University.

Subsequently they were posted to Sarawak, Tanzania, the Seychelles and North Borneo, where she devoted her time to raising and schooling their daughter Lyndal and two sons Michael and Nicholas.

In 1956 the family moved to Papua New Guinea where Patricia became involved in veterinary work again as a Veterinary Officer with the Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries in the early days of the campaign to eradicate bovine brucellosis and tuberculosis in that country. A growing interest in pathology encouraged Patricia to return to her old Faculty for further periods of training, after which she worked as a pathologist at the newly established laboratory at Port Moresby until 1966.

Later Patricia was employed as a pathologist for six years at the Glaxo Laboratories at Greenford in England, working on tissue changes associated with veterinary drugs under development. During this time, their daughter Lyndal had taken up her mother's career choice, graduating from the veterinary school at the University of Queensland in 1963.

The Abbotts returned to Australia in 1973, settled at Paterson NSW for a number of years and finally returned to Sydney. In 1980 Patricia was offered a position as part-time Demonstrator in Pathology for the third year students in the Faculty. While at the University Patricia enjoyed participating in the 75th anniversary of the Sydney Veterinary School in 1985 - fifty years after she had become its first woman graduate.

Patricia Abbott in 1985

The Faculty celebrates its 75th Anniversary with Patricia Littlejohn meeting the Sydney University Veterinary Society President Barbara Menzies at the celebratory dinner in the Great Hall in 1985, photo, Faculty of Veterinary Science website.


She retired in 1987, a year after her husband's death, and died in September 1998.


Information sources