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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hill, Kate (1859–1933)

by Joyce Gibberd

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Kate Hill (1859-1933), by Ernest Gall, c1890

Kate Hill (1859-1933), by Ernest Gall, c1890

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 3444

Kate Hill (1859-1933), nurse, was born on 7 May 1859 at Walsall, Staffordshire, England, daughter of Joseph Hill, journeyman, and his wife Mary, née Evans. Orphaned early, she lived with her sister Emily Louisa and her brother-in-law Joseph William Coudrey, foundry-owner of Walsall. Kate was influenced by the work of Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison, Sister Dora of an Anglican nursing community, especially by her cool care of injured miners. In 1879, following a slump in the pig-iron industries, the Coudreys and Kate migrated to Adelaide with their friend Alice Tibbitts.

In 1883 Kate Hill was admitted as a probationer to the Adelaide Children's Hospital where her promotion was rapid. Nurses were claiming that training was farcical and in 1885 control of the hospital was taken over by a house surgeon. Hill became head nurse in 1887. Two years later she left for fifteen months to be head nurse at the Private Hospital, Wakefield Street, owned by Alice Tibbitts. On her return to the Children's Hospital in 1891 Hill became superintendent of nurses (the first trained nurse appointed as matron since 1885). Her span embraced 'The halcyon years', 1893-99, of the hospital: it saw advances in medicine, the gift of a new wing by John Howard Angas, and the beginning of the upper classes' meticulously organized fund-raising activities. Hill was devoted to her staff, showing 'zeal, fidelity, diligence and kindness' and an 'ability to educate and command without alienating the sympathies of her subordinates'.

She resigned in 1902 to became a partner, and soon owner, of Tibbitts's hospital: to own a private hospital was highly regarded. This hospital had been the first private training school in the State; Hill continued the same thorough nursing, attending most operations and supervising patients' aftercare. In 1905 Dr A. A. Lendon and Dr Thomas Wilson, with Hill as honorary secretary, founded a State branch of the Australian Trained Nurses' Association. She remained on the committee until 1918.

Hill sold her hospital to Sophy Laurence in 1913 and retired, but she remained a life member of the Children's Hospital's board of management. From 1915 she was a council-member of the District Trained Nursing Society and became an honorary life member in 1929.

Kate Hill had a strong face which inspired confidence; a quietly spoken woman who collected beautiful furniture, she tried to learn something new each day. She visited England in 1914 and 1924. A leader in her family, she trained several nieces at her hospital; they inherited most of her estate, valued for probate at £18,742. She was an active Baptist. On 2 February 1933 she died at Woodside of respiratory disease and was buried in Mitcham cemetery. The Kate Hill honour board was established by the Adelaide Children's Hospital Nurses' Association in 1939; on it is inscribed the name of each year's outstanding student.

Select Bibliography

  • Nursing in South Australia: First Hundred Years 1837-1937 (Adel, 1939)
  • M. Barbalet, The Adelaide Children's Hospital, 1876-1976 (Adel, 1975)
  • Australasian Nurses' Journal, 15 Apr 1933
  • Chronicle (Adelaide), 16 Feb 1933
  • J. W. Coudrey diary (D5516(L), State Records of South Australia).

Citation details

Joyce Gibberd, 'Hill, Kate (1859–1933)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

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