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Kincaid, Hilda Estelle (1886–1967)

by Helen Keleher

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Hilda Estelle Kincaid (1886-1967), medical practitioner, was born on 15 December 1886 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, third daughter of John Kincaid, a stock agent from England, and his Victorian-born wife Maria Ann, née Avery. Hilda was educated at Methodist Ladies' College, Kew (dux 1902). A contemporary remembered her as 'a thin wisp of a girl' with a lisp, who 'had grey matter in abundance but was neither arrogant nor a prig'.

In 1905 Kincaid entered the University of Melbourne (B.Sc., 1908; M.Sc., 1910; D.Sc., 1912). The scientific work for her doctoral thesis, 'Biochemical significance of phosphorus', was conducted in the laboratory of Professor William Osborne. Awarded a government research scholarship, she was employed at the university as a demonstrator and as an assistant in bacteriology, but turned to studying medicine and graduated (M.B., B.S.) in 1920. She was a resident medical officer at the Melbourne Hospital in 1920 before working in Sydney at the Renwick Hospital for Infants and at the Scarba children's home; she was also a demonstrator in physiology at the University of Sydney and an assistant-physician to out-patients at the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children.

From 1927 until her retirement in 1952 Kincaid was medical officer (child welfare) for the Melbourne City Council. Working in a team with Dr John Dale and Dr Hilda Bull (the wife of Louis Esson), Kincaid awakened public interest in the health of pre-school children at a time when others were preoccupied with infant mortality. She examined the effects of environment and nutrition on the growth and development of underprivileged children. During the Depression she tried to alleviate iron deficiency in mothers which was exacerbated by malnutrition and poverty. A pamphlet outlining a low-cost, nutritionally balanced diet was distributed through baby health centres. She also investigated haemoglobin levels in infants and methods of providing iron supplements.

A committee-member of the Demonstration Nursery School which established the Lady Gowrie Child Centre in Melbourne in 1939, Kincaid served with Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown, Christine Heinig and Frances Derham on a sub-committee which planned and lobbied successfully for the foundation of similar centres interstate. Much of Kincaid's work was conducted at the Lady Gowrie Centre where she and her staff recorded pre-school children's height, weight and nutrition. Her research was thorough, exact and detailed. She was troubled by the levels of malnourishment, tooth decay, bone deformities and anaemia, which she saw as largely preventable. Her interest in the posture of young children led her to design suitable chairs and tables for them.

Kincaid attended meetings and conferences of the Victorian branch of the British Medical Association and of the Victorian Paediatric Society. She published her research in the proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, the Pan-Pacific Women's Congress and in the Medical Journal of Australia. Small in stature and meticulous in appearance, she was a modest, likeable woman with a sense of humour. She was fond of motoring, travelling, theatre-going and dancing; she also took pleasure in helping to raise her sister's children. Her colleagues Dale and Bull were close friends who shared her love of the arts. Kincaid died on the night of 31 March/1 April 1967 at her East Malvern flat and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. T. Zainu'ddin, They Dreamt of a School (Melb, 1982)
  • Royal Society of Victoria, Proceedings, 23, 1911
  • Medical Journal of Australia, 16 Aug 1930, 23 Feb 1935, 26 Mar, 30 July 1938, 8 June 1940
  • Methodist Ladies' College, Kew, Melbourne, Archives
  • City of Melbourne Archives (North Melbourne Library).

Citation details

Helen Keleher, 'Kincaid, Hilda Estelle (1886–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kincaid-hilda-estelle-10737/text19029, published in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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