Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Evans, Evelyn Paget (1881–1960)

by Judith Godden and Heather Radi

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Evelyn Paget Evans (1881-1960), administrator, was born on 11 November 1881 at Auckland, New Zealand, daughter of Welsh-born parents Lawford David Evans (d.1903), physician, and his wife Lillie Elizabeth, née Price. By 1897 Lillie was running a private hospital at St Kilda, Melbourne. Educated nearby at The Priory, Evelyn worked as a typist and by 1913 had moved to Sydney.

In July 1917 Evans became the first paid secretary of the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association. Her duties included managing the Australasian Nurses' Journal and being general secretary of the Australasian Massage Association (later Australian Physiotherapy Association). When the (Royal) Australian Nursing Federation was founded in 1924 to represent nurses' interests, she also became its secretary. The three organizations for which she worked espoused dedicated, selfless professionalism for their members, an ideal she applied to herself.

Staunchly opposed to trade unionism for nurses, in 1929 Evans gave evidence to the Industrial Commission of New South Wales against an application by the Hospital Employees' Association to include nurses under its award. The formation of the New South Wales Nurses' Association in 1931 greatly upset her and in 1934, as an independent witness, she opposed a reduced working week for nurses. Her evidence reflected her employers' policy and she argued that improved working conditions would only exacerbate the over-supply of nurses. Evans's correspondence with impoverished nurses revealed her firmness and kindness. Secretary of the State branch of the Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia, she was also a foundation member (1934) of the nurses' memorial fund sub-committee which in 1946 opened A.T.N.A. House for retired and destitute nurses.

Evans gave notice as general secretary of the A.T.N.A. in 1945, but a replacement was not found until the secretary's salary was nearly doubled one year later. In appreciation of her unselfish services, she was given a £300 retiring allowance and made vice-president of A.T.N.A. House. In 1950 she retired from the A.N.F., but remained secretary of the Australian Physiotherapy Association until 1956. She revealed her firm grasp of detail in articles in the International Nursing Review (1938) and the Australian Journal of Physiotherapy (1955).

A delegate (from 1924) to the National Council of Women of New South Wales and a member (1926-46) of its executive, Evans had been active on the health and professionalism sub-committees. In 1939-45 she was involved in the Women's Voluntary Services which was founded to spearhead civilian war-work. She organized first aid for the National Emergency Services in 1940-43 and was a serving sister of the Order of St John. A member of the central council of women's auxiliaries of the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children, she was vice-president of the Business and Professional Women's Club of Sydney, and a justice of the peace. She belonged to the Lyceum Club and her major recreation was music. In 1955 she was appointed M.B.E. Although she was loyal, conscientious and self-effacing, Evans's employers consistently congratulated themselves, not her, on her ability and achievements. She died on 10 April 1960 in Rydalmere Mental Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Nurses' Journal, July 1917, pp 231, 233, Feb 1955, p 31, May 1960, p 129
  • Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, 1, no 2, 1955, p 78
  • Australian Trained Nurses' Association (New South Wales) records (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Women's Voluntary Services records (State Library of New South Wales)
  • National Council of Women (New South Wales), papers for 1930s and minutes of General Meetings and Executive Committee Meetings, 1924-46 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Judith Godden and Heather Radi, 'Evans, Evelyn Paget (1881–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/evans-evelyn-paget-10128/text17879, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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