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The 'Melbourne Lying-in Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases of Women and Children', was founded in August 1856 by two groups which saw the hardship women were facing in post-goldrush Melbourne.

Gold had brought poverty and social turmoil, as well as wealth.

  • Ladies' Committee (Committee of Management)
  • Doctors

A group of women, headed by the wife of Melbourne’s Anglican Bishop, were attempting to start a lying-in hospital but had been rebuffed by the Melbourne Hospital and the government.

Two young doctors had already rented a house for the same purpose when they learned of the ladies' proposal. The groups came together and within days the new hospital was on its way under their joint management.

Ladies' Committee

The Ladies Committee, also known as the Committee of Management, was made up of twenty women, many the wives of protestant clergymen. Despite their active involvement in public affairs such as this, it is difficult to learn much about them, other than as the unrecorded wives of their better documented husbands.

Members of the first Ladies' Committee

1856-1875 Mrs Charles Perry (Fanny) President
1856-1869 Mrs Jennings (Alicia) Honorary Treasurer
1856-1857 Mrs Tripp (Elizabeth) Honorary Secretary
1856-1866 Mrs Robert Barlow
1856-1856 Mrs Barry
1856-1868 Mrs Cassell
1856-1857 Mrs Draper
1856-1856 Mrs Griffith
1856-1856 Mrs Guiness
1856-1857 Mrs Handfield
1856-1860 Mrs Heatherington
1856-1857 Mrs Odell
1856-1857 Mrs Macartney
1856-1857 Mrs McCombe
1856-1869 Mrs Puckle
1856-1856 Mrs Seddon
1856-1856 Mrs Simpson
1856-1885 Mrs J.T. Smith
1856-1857 Mrs Stubbs
1856-1857 Mrs Williamson
Mrs Frances Perry
Portrait of Mrs Frances Perry (better known as Fanny) framed in a beautiful gold locket. The locket also held a portrait of her husband, Bishop Perry. Photographer unknown.

Frances Perry

Mrs Frances Perry came to Melbourne in 1847 with her husband, Melbourne’s first Anglican Bishop. She was instrumental in forming the Ladies’ Committee which founded the 'Lying-in Hospital' and was its President for 20 years until she returned to England after her husband's retirement. The first meetings to discuss the great need for medical care among Melbourne’s poor women were held in the Anglican Deanery.

Mrs Elizabeth Tripp
Mrs Elizabeth Tripp, photographed many years after her involvement with the hospital. Photo courtesy of Toorak College Archives, Mt Eliza.

Elizabeth Tripp

Mrs Elizabeth Tripp served as Honorary Secretary of the Committee of Management, for about two years. She attended the first meetings when the hospital’s creation was discussed and played a vital role communicating with the government, subscribers, contractors and doctors during the critical first two years of the hospital’s existence.


Two young medical men, recently arrived from England and Ireland, had seen the same wretched conditions poor women of Melbourne were enduring and were acting on their own account to open a lying-in hospital. They joined the Ladies’ Committee to found the 'Melbourne Lying-in Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases of Women and Children' (now the Royal Women's Hospital).

Richard Thomas Tracy
Richard Thomas Tracy. Photographer unknown.

Richard Thomas Tracy, M.D., L.R.C.S.I.

Richard Tracy arrived in Melbourne via a brief stay on the goldfields and rapidly became an active member of the fledgling medical fraternity. He co-founded the 'Lying-in Hospital' and was deeply involved with it for the remainder of his life, establishing himself as Victoria’s pre-eminent specialist in women’s health and the 'Lying-in Hospital' as one of the finest of its kind in the world.

John Maund
Pencil sketch from John Maund’s posthumous portrait by Nicholas Chevalier. Artist unknown

John Maund, M.D., M.R.C.S. (Eng.)

John Maund’s life was tragically short, dying at only 35 years old and barely seeing the hospital he helped to create establish its place as a vital Melbourne institution. Nonetheless, his analytical mind helped to set the course for the hospital’s future scientific endeavours.