Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dorothy Carroll (1897–1966)

by Joan Durdin

This article was published:

Dorothy Carroll (1897-1966), hospital matron, was born on 1 February 1897 at Broken Hill, New South Wales, eldest of four children of John Christopher Carroll, miner, and his second wife Mary Ann, née Panter (d.1919). The family left Broken Hill in 1902 and successively lived at Gawler, South Australia, Parkside, Adelaide, and in the Western District of Victoria before settling at Alberton, Adelaide, where John and Mary ran a general store. On leaving primary school, Dorothy learned millinery and dressmaking, then worked for ten years as a milliner with the drapers, Wills & Co., in Rundle Street. In 1926 she began general training at the Angaston District Hospital; two years later she transferred to the (Royal) Adelaide Hospital where in 1930 her performance was laconically assessed as 'good'. She studied midwifery at the Queen's Home (later Queen Victoria Maternity Hospital), Rose Park, which was founded (1902) to provide care during confinement for 'respectable married women in need of charitable relief'.

Having completed her midwifery course, Carroll joined the hospital's staff. She helped to train about thirty nurses annually and to assist medical students in gaining experience in obstetrics. For several years she had charge of the labour ward, working a 58-hour week, with one day off a month. Efficient and humane, she lectured to student nurses who appreciated her sense of humour. After a year as deputy-matron, she resigned in 1938 to be matron of the Soldiers' Memorial Hospital, Mount Barker, but next year returned to the 'Queen Vic' as matron. In World War II difficulties in staffing and accommodation were constant. Carroll's quarters were within the main building and she was on call at all times for emergencies. Her appearance was striking. Tall and well built, she was a familiar figure in her starched, white uniform and a veil which covered most of her wavy, grey hair; her face was dominated by thick, dark eyebrows and eyes that conveyed warmth. Staff and patients alike found her approachable and ready to listen to their problems.

With increasing commitments to the wider field of nursing, in the 1950s Carroll delegated more of the hospital supervision. A member (1951-57) of the Nurses Registration Board of South Australia, she was for fifteen years one of its examiners in midwifery; she was also national president (1953) of the Florence Nightingale Committee and a fellow of the College of Nursing, Australia. In addition, she was a council-member and president (1951-52 and 1955-59) of the State branch of the Australian Trained Nurses' Association (Royal Australian Nursing Federation from 1955), and belonged to its federal council. She was appointed O.B.E. in 1955 and attended the congress of the International Council of Nurses held in Rome in 1957.

Following her retirement in 1959, Carroll joined the boards of the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woodville. She flew to meetings from Kangaroo Island where for three years she lived with her sister Daisy Zeitz and acted as matron of the hospital at Kingscote. Miss Carroll died of myocardial infarction on 18 June 1966 at Glen Ewin, near Houghton, and was cremated with Congregational forms.

Select Bibliography

  • I. L. D. Forbes, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woodville, 1954-1984 (Adel, 1984)
  • I. L. D. Forbes, The Queen Victoria Hospital, Rose Park, 1901-1987 (Adel, priv pub, 1988)
  • J. Durdin, They Became Nurses (Syd, 1991)
  • News (Adelaide), 13 Nov 1957
  • Sunday Mail (Adelaide), 12 Dec 1959
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 June 1966
  • trainee nurse history sheets (State Records of South Australia)
  • Nurses Board of South Australia, minutes of Board meetings (Nurses Board, North Adelaide)
  • Australian Trained Nurses Association, minutes of council meetings and Florence Nightingale Committee, South Australian Branch, minutes of meetings (Royal Australian Nursing Federation Archives, Kent Town, Adelaide)
  • College of Nursing, Australia, South Australian Branch, minutes of meetings (Royal College of Nursing, Australia, Archives, North Adelaide)
  • private information.

Citation details

Joan Durdin, 'Carroll, Dorothy (1897–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 17 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


1 February, 1897
Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia


18 June, 1966 (aged 69)
Houghton, South Australia, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.