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Sage, Annie Moriah (1895–1969)

by Janice McCarthy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Annie Moriah Sage (1895-1969), by Nora Heysen, 1944

Annie Moriah Sage (1895-1969), by Nora Heysen, 1944

Australian War Memorial, ART22218

Annie Moriah Sage (1895-1969), army matron-in-chief, was born on 17 August 1895 at Somerville, Victoria, fifth child of Edward Arthur Sage, butcher, and his wife Mary Anne, née Murray, both Victorian born. Educated at Somerville State School, Annie worked as an assistant in a grocer's shop before training at the Melbourne Hospital and studying midwifery at the Women's Hospital, Carlton. She was registered as a midwife in September 1924 and granted her nursing certificate in November 1926. After gaining a qualification in infant welfare from the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association, she obtained a diploma of public health from the Royal Sanitary Institute, London. Back home, she was employed (from 1933) in child health, lecturing at training colleges and technical schools, and broadcasting to mothers. In 1936 she became matron of the V.B.H.C.A.'s training school.

On 1 January 1940 Sage joined the Australian Army Nursing Service, Australian Imperial Force. In the following month she was posted as matron to the 2nd/2nd Australian General Hospital. She sailed for the Middle East in April 1940 and served at Gaza Ridge, Palestine, and at Kantara, Egypt. Made matron-in-chief, A.I.F. (Middle East), in May 1941, she was appointed (1942) a member of the Royal Red Cross for her exceptional administrative ability and 'gallant and distinguished service'. Sage returned to Australia in May 1942 and was elevated to deputy matron-in-chief at Land Headquarters, Melbourne. Appointed matron-in-chief, Australian Military Forces, on 4 February 1943, she was promoted colonel on 23 March. She organized the A.A.N.S. for duty in the South-West Pacific Area and oversaw the training scheme for the Australian Army Medical Women's Service.

Affectionately known as 'Sammie', Sage was 5 ft 5½ ins (166 cm) tall, with blue eyes, fair hair, plain features and a dignified bearing. She was a humane and gentle woman with a salty sense of humour. Following the release of twenty-four of the Australian nurses imprisoned by the Japanese, she flew to Sumatra in September 1945 to assist with their repatriation, thereby realizing an ambition she had held since their capture. For her war service she was awarded the Florence Nightingale medal (1947) by the International Red Cross. She accompanied the A.M.F. contingent to London for the Victory March in June 1946. After her army appointment terminated on 23 January 1947, she became lady superintendent (matron) at the Women's Hospital, Melbourne. She also continued, part time, as matron-in-chief, Citizen Military Forces. In 1951 she was appointed C.B.E. Ill health forced her to retire in August 1952. Later that year she unsuccessfully sought Liberal Party pre-selection for the Federal seat of Flinders.

Sage was an active member of the Royal Victorian College of Nursing, the Nurses Board of Victoria, the Florence Nightingale Memorial Committee of Australia and the Centaur War Nurses Memorial Fund. Founding president (1949-50), treasurer (1950-52) and an honorary fellow (1967) of the College of Nursing, Australia, she helped to establish its War Nurses Memorial Centre in St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

In 1956 Sage became a partner in a grocery shop at Somerville which traded as Sage & Lewis. Maintaining an interest in military nursing, she was honorary colonel of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps in 1957-62. She died on or about 4 April 1969 at her Frankston home and was cremated with Anglican rites and full military honours. Part of her estate, sworn for probate at $73,643, was bequeathed to her six nieces and three nephews, to whom she was known as 'Aunty Fam'. In 1969 the College of Nursing established the Annie M. Sage scholarship.

Select Bibliography

  • A. S. Walker, Medical Services of the R.A.N. and R.A.A.F. (Canb, 1961)
  • C. Kenny, Captives (Brisb, 1986)
  • R. Goodman, Our War Nurses (Brisb, 1988)
  • J. Bassett, Guns and Brooches (Melb, 1992)
  • R. G. Smith, In Pursuit of Nursing Excellence (Melb, 1999)
  • Australian Women's Weekly, 13 July 1946
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 Sept 1952, 5 Feb 1956
  • A. M. Sage diary, 1941 (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Janice McCarthy, 'Sage, Annie Moriah (1895–1969)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/sage-annie-moriah-11601/text20713, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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