Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edith Hughes-Jones (1905–1976)

by Jennifer Williams

This article was published:

Edith Hughes-Jones (1905-1976), nurse and hospital proprietor, was born on 10 March 1905 at Tungamah, Victoria, and registered as Edith Hughes, second child of Rev. William Thomas Jones, Methodist clergyman, and his wife Agnes Edith, née Hardy, both Victorian born. Educated at Presbyterian Ladies' College, Kew, she undertook her general nursing training at the Alfred Hospital, Prahran, and completed midwifery at the (Royal) Women's Hospital, Melbourne. As a young girl she had developed organizing and delegating skills when her father encouraged her to help at camps run by the Try Boys Homes.

The family lived frugally, and Edith, with her two brothers, was taught the value of hard work and the worth of money. Developing financial flair, she bought Windarra, a private hospital at Toorak where she had served as matron. In 1938 she became matron and owner of Windermere, at Prahran, which she developed into one of Melbourne's best-known private hospitals. She used the freedom and independence which these acquisitions gave her to benefit nursing.

Following the sinking of the hospital ship, Centaur, in 1943, Miss Hughes-Jones initiated the Centaur War Nurses' Memorial Trust, of which she was honorary secretary (1943-76), a trustee and a member of its scholarship committee. Her close association with many nurses who were to die in World War II reinforced her dedication and enthusiasm, and lay behind the role she played in establishing (1948) the War Nurses Memorial Centre (later the Nurses Memorial Centre). After the war she also helped to form the trust from which the Annie M. Sage memorial nurses' scholarship was awarded.

As foundation honorary secretary (1946-75) of the Florence Nightingale Committee of Australia, Hughes-Jones devoted many years to promoting postgraduate education for nurses. She was one of the founders (1949) and a fellow (1971) of the College of Nursing, Australia, and its honorary secretary (1950-55) and president (1955-56). In 1957 she was appointed O.B.E. President (1961-66) of the (Royal) Victorian College of Nursing, she was a member of the Victorian Nursing Council. In 1973 she set up Windermere Hospital Foundation Ltd to provide funds for charitable organizations and nursing education.

Her involvement with the Lyceum Club and the Collins Street Independent Church—as a deacon from 1955 and an elder in 1967—gave her access to influential people who supported her causes. Hughes-Jones loved her home at Olinda; its garden, which gave her great joy, was often thrown open for fund-raising functions. She made enormous demands on those who worked for her and allowed nothing to prevent her from gaining her objectives.

Following a long battle with cancer, Hughes-Jones died on 15 April 1976 at Prahran and was cremated; her estate was sworn for probate at $153,597. At her memorial service Dr Francis MacNab said: 'We knew she was determined, demanding, sometimes insensitive, distorting events and circumstances. But we also knew she was compassionate, grateful, generous, innovative, colourful, approachable, provocative'. Her brother William Eric Archer Hughes-Jones (1902-1976) was a surgeon and chairman (1968-73) of the Royal Melbourne Hospital's board of management.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Schultz, The Seventeenth Patricia Chomley Oration: 'Founders of the College' (Brisb, 1983)
  • UNA, 74, no 2, 1976
  • Age (Melbourne), 23 Apr 1976
  • Memorial Service for Miss Edith Hughes-Jones, 24 Apr 1976 (held by Collins St Independent Church, Melbourne)
  • Nurses Memorial Centre, Melbourne, Archives.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jennifer Williams, 'Hughes-Jones, Edith (1905–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Jones, Edith Hughes

10 March, 1905
Tungamah, Victoria, Australia


15 April, 1976 (aged 71)
Prahran, Melbourne, Victoria, 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.