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Ellen Julia (Nellie) Gould (1860–1941)

by Perditta M. McCarthy

This article was published:

Ellen Julia (Nellie) Gould (1860-1941), nurse, was born on 29 March 1860 at Aberystruth, Monmouthshire, Wales, daughter of Henry Gould, agent, and his second wife Sarah, née Baker. Sarah Gould died in childbirth when Ellen was 18 months old; she was 4 when the family moved to Portugal, where the young children were cared for and given early tutoring by their father. At 10 she attended a Portuguese school to learn languages and her stepsister Emily came from England to supervise her English education. After ten apparently happy years the family returned to London, where Ellen attended Mildmay Park College; she passed the senior local Cambridge examination in 1876, remained on the teaching staff until 1879 and then worked in Hamburg, Germany, as a governess for four and a half years.

In 1884 'Nellie' and her stepsister visited relatives in New South Wales. She then began a two-year training course at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, on 19 January 1885. On its completion she remained on the staff for two years. She was then appointed matron of St Kilda Private Hospital at Woolloomooloo and in 1891 became matron and superintendent of the training school of Sydney Hospital where her skill as an administrator and teacher was recognized. She resigned in October 1898 to join the New South Wales Public Health Department and was matron of the Hospital for the Insane at Rydalmere in 1898-1900.

In February 1899 Colonel, later Surgeon-General, (Sir) William Williams asked her help to form an Army Nursing Service Reserve attached to the New South Wales Army Medical Corps, and in May twenty-six nurses were sworn in. Miss Gould was appointed lady superintendent. On 17 January 1900, in charge of thirteen nursing sisters, she left in the Moravian for the South African War, with the 2nd New South Wales Army Medical Corps Contingent. She served first at a stationary hospital at Sterkstroom and later at No.3 British General Hospital, Kroonstad, No.6 British General Hospital, Johannesburg, and No.35 Stationary Hospital, Ermelo, returning to Australia in August 1902. With her friend, Sister Julia Bligh Johnston, she then opened Ermelo Private Hospital at Newtown, Sydney, and for the next ten years her energy and initiative were devoted to the welfare of nurses and the enhancement of the status of the profession. She also organized the Army Nursing Service Reserve in New South Wales and was appointed principal matron of the 2nd Military District. Ermelo was sold in 1912 and Ellen Gould and Julia Johnston joined the Public Health Department.

On 27 September 1914 Miss Gould enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was appointed matron of No.2 Australian General Hospital. With six other nurses she left Australia on 20 October, disembarking at Alexandria, Egypt, on 4 December. The hospital unit arrived later and she took up her duties as matron on 21 January 1915. The staff were established at Mena House when, a few months later, casualties from Gallipoli made necessary the preparation of a second hospital at Ghezireh Palace; the two hospitals had a total of 1500 beds. In April 1916 No.2 A.G.H. was transferred to France and established at Wimereux, arriving on 30 June, the eve of the advance on the Somme.

In 1917, after a long period of arduous duty, Miss Gould was posted to England to No.1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital (Harefield). In November she was transferred to Cobham Hall, an Australian convalescent hospital. She returned to Australia in January 1919 and was discharged from the A.I.F. on 3 March. Her health was broken and she was unfit to take up nursing duties again; from 1920 she received a war service pension. Her distinguished service was recognized by the award of the Royal Red Cross (1st class) in 1916.

Ellen Gould had a great influence on the development of professional nursing in Australia; she was involved in founding the Australasian Trained Nurses' Association and was a council member from its inception in 1899 until her retirement in 1921. She instigated the publishing of the A.T.N.A. journal in 1903 and served on the editorial committee.

She was a women of vision and energy, an excellent nurse, an able administrator and highly professional. Of good appearance, impeccable manners and gentle humour, she set and maintained standards which have left their mark on generations of Australian nurses. After her retirement she lived quietly with Julia Johnston at Miranda, Sydney. She died in hospital at Neutral Bay on 19 July 1941 and was privately cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray, ed (Melb, 1911)
  • A. G. Butler (ed), The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services in the War of 1914-1918, vols 1, 3 (Melb, 1930, Canb, 1943)
  • D. M. Armstrong, The First Fifty Years: A History of Nursing at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, 1882 to 1932 (Syd, 1965)
  • London Gazette, 14 Jan 1916
  • Australasian Nurses' Journal, July 1904, Apr 1907, Jan 1909, Mar 1910, July 1912, Aug, Nov, Dec 1914, June 1916, Aug 1941
  • Sydney Hospital, Annual Report, 1891, 1898
  • Council of N.S.W. Trained Nurses' Association, minute book, 1899-1905
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 1941
  • papers by E. J. Gould, MS 4364/34/6 (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Perditta M. McCarthy, 'Gould, Ellen Julia (Nellie) (1860–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 March, 1860
Aberystruth, Monmouthshire, Wales


19 July, 1941 (aged 81)
Neutral Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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