Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Hamilton, Marie Montgomerie (1891–1955)

by Marion K. Stell

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

Marie Montgomerie Hamilton (1891-1955), pathologist and hockey administrator, was born on 7 April 1891 in Sydney, only daughter of Hugh Montgomerie Hamilton, a native-born judge, and his second wife Minnie Redfearn, from England. Marie was educated at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Croydon, where she excelled as an all-rounder and was dux. Nominated to coach her old school's hockey team in 1913, she was treasurer (1914-16) of the New South Wales Women's Hockey Association. Her fiancé was killed at Lone Pine, Gallipoli. In 1918 she entered the faculty of medicine at the University of Sydney (M.B., Ch.M., 1923) and took up residence in Women's College. She captained the university hockey team in 1920, was president of the N.S.W.W.H.A. for twenty-one consecutive terms (1928-48) and chaired (1932-34 and 1945-54) the All Australia Women's Hockey Association. During her terms of office, women's hockey became an international sport.

On graduation, Dr Hamilton worked as a resident medical officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. On 3 June 1926 she was appointed assistant medical officer in the Department of Public Health. There she met the pathologist Dr Elsie Dalyell. They began work on the treatment of venereal disease in women, a lengthy process in the pre-penicillin era. Late in 1927 they established a venereal disease clinic at the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children, Redfern, and offered treatment and counselling. Hamilton's sympathetic, if forthright, nature endeared her to her clients.

In 1934 she began private practice as a pathologist from the family home at Strathfield where she lived for the rest of her life, attended by her housekeeper. At the R.F.H., Hamilton was an honorary pathologist, and a member of the board and advisory committee; she was also pathologist at the Western Suburbs and the Masonic hospitals. After his father had been killed in an air crash in 1932, she cared for her young nephew Hugh Montgomerie Hamilton. Her needs were simple, verging on the austere, but her home was 'full of family treasures, beautiful china, furniture and old books'. She dressed sensibly rather than fashionably, and was a great believer in soap and water instead of make-up. Her friends were mainly hockey and medical people with whom she enjoyed good dinner conversation, accompanied by a sherry or glass of wine, and occasionally one cigarette—which her nephew later noted was taken with some glee.

Using her position with the N.S.W.W.H.A., Hamilton established an annual fund from which to supply equipment to the R.F.H.'s pathology department. She worked, as well, at the McGarvie Smith Institute from 1936 on anthrax research. During World War II she was aware of the need for blood-group testing to enable citizens to become donors: she arrived at a hockey oval, armed with hundreds of small bottles and needles, and proceeded to classify the blood of all the women present. Responding to the government's request for people to grow more food, she bought a small dairy farm near Camden and ran it when she had completed a correspondence course in agriculture.

Hamilton represented medical women on the university's standing committee of convocation from 1939; in 1943 she was the first woman elected to the council of the New South Wales branch of the British Medical Association. She was a foundation member (1928) and president (1948-49) of the Medical Women's Society of New South Wales.

An enthusiastic traveller within Australia, especially on camping safaris to the outback, she also accompanied women's hockey teams overseas. Ill health forced her to return to Australia from one such tour in 1952. She was made a life member of the State and the All-Australia women's hockey associations. Attended by Dr Julia Amphlett, her friend and colleague since university, Hamilton died of cancer on 2 November 1955 at Killara and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Cohen, Rachel Forster Hospital (Syd, 1972)
  • M. H. Neve, This Mad Folly (Syd, 1980)
  • L. Hodges, A History of the New South Wales Women's Hockey Association (Syd, 1984)
  • Aurora Australis, 1906, 1907, 1908
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 14 Feb 1925, 31 Dec 1955
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 16 Nov 1942, 26 Mar 1943, 4 Nov 1955
  • private information.

Citation details

Marion K. Stell, 'Hamilton, Marie Montgomerie (1891–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hamilton-marie-montgomerie-10404/text18437, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 19 December 2014.

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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014