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Morgan, Agnes Helen (1883–1969)

by Jacqueline Templeton

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

Agnes Helen Morgan (1883-1969), hospital matron, was born on 9 December 1883 at Berwick, Victoria, daughter of Victorian-born parents William Llewelyn Morgan, stationmaster, and his wife Helen, née Williams. After training (1906-09) at the Homoeopathic Hospital, Melbourne, Agnes served as matron at the Ovens and District Hospital before returning to the Homoeopathic as assistant-matron in 1925. She became matron in 1935, a year after it was renamed Prince Henry's Hospital.

As matron, Morgan was responsible for the care of patients, general nursing services and nurse training; she supervised domestic staff, the laundry, catering and even the purchase of the linen. Before expansion in the 1950s, the hospital was small and intimate, and run in an informal way, and Morgan's influence was exercised at a personal level, through persuasion and shrewd diplomacy. She had an excellent relationship with the hospital auxiliaries. In 1949 she was appointed O.B.E.

Agnes Morgan was a petite figure, remembered by her nurses as a firm—but not rigid—disciplinarian, and as approachable and considerate, and much concerned with their welfare and comfort. She appointed her own nursing staff, and pressed for the appointment of a caterer and dietitian in 1940, and a tutor sister in 1941. For the new nurses' home, completed in 1950, she insisted that proper sitting-rooms, smoking-rooms and a modern dining-room be provided to avoid the old institutional atmosphere. She was, primarily, a good practical nurse, concerned above all with the humane treatment of patients; during her four decades at Prince Henry's the hospital was respected for the quality of its care.

The pitiful salaries paid to matrons often made indefinite postponements of retirement necessary for financial reasons. When Morgan retired in 1966, at the age of 82, she was appointed nursing adviser. She left a large teaching hospital in which the nursing staff had grown to some 400. She had not sought, nor embraced readily, a greater role for matrons in the general running of the hospital. Nor was she an academic matron. In the latter years of her long reign she was criticized by tutor sisters for failing to keep pace with changes in the profession.

A wing added to the hospital in 1965 had been named after Morgan and in 1967 her portrait by Alan Martin was unveiled in the nurses' home. In 1969 she was awarded a Prince Henry's Hospital centenary medallion. A foundation member of the Hospital Matrons' Association of Victoria and a member (1950-56) of the State council of the College of Nursing (Australia), she was also a member (1934-62) and vice-president (1949-62) of the Council of the Royal Victorian College of Nursing. For twenty years she was a member (president 1961-69) of the committee of Airdrie, the Society for Aged and Incapacitated Nurses. Endowed with an independent spirit and a keen sense of humour, Matron Morgan enjoyed life, regularly going to the theatre and the Moonee Valley racecourse. She died on 12 August 1969 at South Melbourne and was cremated with Presbyterian forms.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Templeton, Prince Henry's (Melb, 1969)
  • Homoeopathic Hospital and Prince Henry's Hospital (Melbourne), Annual Report, 1925-1969, and minute books, 1925-1962 (held at Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne).

Citation details

Jacqueline Templeton, 'Morgan, Agnes Helen (1883–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/morgan-agnes-helen-11162/text19885, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 16 June 2019.

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

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