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Morrice, Nellie Constance (1881–1963)

by Vilma Page

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Nellie Constance Morrice (1881-1963), by unknown photographer, c1917

Nellie Constance Morrice (1881-1963), by unknown photographer, c1917

Australian War Memorial, H16063 [right]

Nellie Constance Morrice (1881-1963), nurse and administrator, was born on 31 March 1881 at Ealing Forest, near Berrima, New South Wales, seventh of eleven children of Australian-born parents David Morrice, grazier, and his wife Sarah Mary, née Hale. On 27 November 1903 Nellie began training at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. She qualified as a staff nurse (1906) and gained her four-year certificate in April 1907, passing 'with credit', with experience as a theatre nurse and instruments nurse, and a dispensary certificate. After a midwifery course at the Royal Hospital for Women, she nursed privately in 1907-09 and was senior sister at the Pines Private Hospital, Randwick. Returning to R.P.A.H., she was acting sister-in-charge of the Alexandra and Mary Roberts wards in 1912.

Sister Morrice had joined the Australian Army Nursing Service in May 1910. She enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 21 November 1914, was appointed a staff nurse, and embarked in the Kyarra on 28 November. After serving as head sister, No.1 Australian General Hospital, Heliopolis, Egypt, she was detached to No.1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, and then No.3 A.G.H., both in England. Early in 1917 she was posted to the British Expeditionary Force in France; she later rejoined No.3 A.G.H. at Abbeville. On 3 June 1918 Morrice was awarded the Royal Red Cross (2nd class) 'for valuable services with the Armies in France and Flanders'. She returned to Sydney and her appointment ended on 15 January 1919. She later wrote that four of her brothers also served in World War I. Photographs of her in military nursing sister's uniform showed a tall woman, direct and forward looking, with a hint of the smile of a controlled and confident person.

After the war Morrice was matron of Georges Heights Military Hospital (No.21 A.A.H.), Mosman, then sub-matron at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick. In June 1924 she was appointed secretary to the New South Wales (Lady Dudley's) Bush Nursing Association, which focussed on midwifery and the care of infants. Morrice was responsible for finances, subscriptions, donations and the preparation and presentation of annual reports. She also visited every centre to establish personal relationships with the nurses and observe where services were needed. In 1926 she represented New South Wales at an interstate bush nursing conference and passed on the policy of Tresillian mothercraft training and details of the 'Sylvia' ambulance stretcher (patented by Sister Elizabeth Kenny), which Morrice had observed in use in France. Several Country Women's Association branches donated these units and provided cars to tow them. Her extensive travelling soon led to the appointment of a full-time assistant secretary. In June 1934 Morrice was appointed M.B.E. By 1938 her staff included a publicity officer and an inspector and organizer. She was by then visiting some sixty nurses.

World War II presented the B.N.A. with additional problems such as a shortage of nurses and petrol rationing, but Morrice managed to gain an extra 100 gallons (455 litres) of fuel per month. The need for midwifery was reducing, however, as the Hospitals Commission linked bush nursing hospitals into the district hospital system. In 1948 she retired, having worked as secretary for twenty-four of the then thirty-seven years of the B.N.A. She was elected a life member 'by virtue of her service and devotion' and lived in retirement at Chatswood. Miss Morrice died at home on 11 April 1963 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • New South Wales Bush Nursing Association, Annual Report, 1924-48
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Aug 1918, p 8, 5 June 1934, p 9
  • Matron’s reports, 1904-18 (Museum of Nursing, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney)
  • Australian Trained Nurses’ Association, Register of members, 1904-1917 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • AWM41/1013, AWM43/A612, 2DRL/0764, 3DRL/2000 and 2074 (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Vilma Page, 'Morrice, Nellie Constance (1881–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 27 October 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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