Sydney Living Museums’ wonderful event Sydney Open is coming up on 4 and 5 November, where the doors of more than 60 of the city’s most important and intriguing buildings and spaces will be open to the public for one weekend. One of my favourites is the Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Museum on Macquarie Street, which jointly commemorates two very important women in the history of nursing.
Lucy Osburn 1856, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW (MIN 283)

Lucy Osburn 1856, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW (MIN 283)

 

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Lucy Osburn was born in Leeds, England in 1835 and was trained by the social reformer and founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. In 1867, Nightingale sent Osburn and five other nurses to Sydney at the request of Henry Parkes to establish nursing methods and training at the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary on Macquarie Street, now known as Sydney Hospital.

Osburn had only been in Sydney for a week when she faced one of her first challenges. Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son, had been shot in an assassination attempt during his visit to Sydney and she supervised his nursing.

She also faced challenges with the poor conditions of the hospital wards and infighting among her British nurses.

Her main achievement was to reform nursing practice and establish training methods. At the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary she dismissed the male nurses, replaced them with female nurses, and introduced training on and off the wards.

Lucy Osburn & 21 nursing staff of Sydney Hospital, outside the Nightingale Wing 1870 (1976, June 16). The Australian Women's Weekly, 16 June 1976 p68 via Trove

Lucy Osburn & 21 nursing staff of Sydney Hospital, outside the Nightingale Wing 1870 (1976, June 16). The Australian Women’s Weekly, 16 June 1976 p68 via Trove

As the first Lady Superintendent of the Sydney Hospital, she also enforced a strict hierarchical and regimented system that reflected the class system of the time.

Plagued by illness and criticisms regarding her management style, Osburn was forced to resign in 1884 and returned to England where she died in 1891.

Osburn has since been recognised as the founder of Nightingale nursing in Australia. The Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Museum has exhibition displays and archives in her old rooms at Sydney Hospital in a building known as the Nightingale Wing. Designed by the leading architect, Thomas Rowe and built in 1869, it is now the oldest building on the hospital site and is located in the courtyard behind the hospital.

If you miss it during Sydney Open, the Museum is also open every Tuesday, or by appointment. It’s a gem, so make sure you visit! You can find the Sydney Open page here.

Nightingale Wing, Sydney Infirmary, Macquarie Street c1869-74 courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW ( SPF/178)

Nightingale Wing, Sydney Infirmary, Macquarie Street c1869-74 courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW ( SPF/178)

Read Judith Godden’s entry on Lucy Osburn on the Dictionary here, and another she has contributed on the history of nursing in Sydney here.

Find the full program and buy passes for Sydney Open on the Sydney Living Museum’s website here: https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/sydneyopen

Nicole Cama is a professional historian, writer and curator, and the Executive Officer of the History Council of NSW.  She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity.

Listen to the podcast with Nicole & Nic here, and tune in to 2SER Breakfast with Nic Healey on 107.3 every Wednesday morning at 8:15-8:20am to hear more from the Dictionary of Sydney.

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