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Georgina McCready (1888–1980)

by Hazel Woolston

This article was published:

Georgina McCready (1888-1980), nurse, trade unionist and administrator, was born on 17 December 1888 at Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland, daughter of George Johnstone, telephone inspector, and his wife Margaret, née Gibson. The parents moved with their eight children to Glasgow and Georgina was educated there. While employed in a chartered accountant's office, she advanced to ledger-work and learned shorthand at evening-college. She then sought a new vocation, entered the Eastern District Hospital and qualified as a general nurse on 1 November 1912. Georgina accompanied her father when he visited relations in Australia in 1913. In the following year the entire family settled in the Sydney suburb of Dumbleton (Beverly Hills).

The Australasian Trained Nurses' Association required Georgina to sit for the general nurses' examination; she was registered on 11 November 1914 and worked at the Renwick Hospital for Infants. Between 1919 and 1928 she was matron, in turn, of Cessnock, Maitland and Broken Hill hospitals. During this period she obtained special leave and qualified in midwifery at the Royal Hospital for Women on 14 December 1922, and in baby health at Tresillian Mothercraft Training Centre in 1928. In the mid-1920s she was of slim build and average height, with auburn hair and green eyes; she retained her strong features and soft Scottish accent.

As a supervisory nurse, Sister Johnstone assisted in checking hospital standards throughout the State, as required by the Public Hospitals Act (1929). Many fell below Nurses' Registration Board requirements and nurses had no industrial cover. Helped by Jessie Street's influence, Johnstone and Ione Nowland (assistant to the registrar of the N.R.B.) formed the New South Wales Nurses' Association at an emergency meeting on 27 March 1931. It was registered as a trade union on 28 April and as an industrial union on 12 August. The 1931 executive included Nowland as president and Johnstone as honorary secretary.

At St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney, on 25 January 1932 Georgina married Samuel McCready (d.1940), a 35-year-old dairy farmer. Deeply interested in nursing affairs, she was honorary secretary (1935) of the N.S.W.N.A.; the first award for nurses was achieved in 1936. In addition to her experience and energy, she also possessed administrative skills. Her drive to improve conditions for nurses made her the more determined to support the association through its long struggle with financial problems and lack of members. She again served (1941-45) as honorary secretary. In 1943 she was able to report an expanded membership and the first year of financial stability. The association amalgamated with the Trained Mental Nurses' Association in 1945. By the end of that year McCready was general secretary; she was subsequently assistant-secretary (1946-53). In 1953 she became one of the first two life members of the association. Throughout her years of service the N.S.W.N.A. initiated significant industrial advances for many branches of nursing.

Mrs McCready represented the N.S.W.N.A. at national and State conferences; she also participated in discussions about amalgamation with the A.T.N.A. and for a national nurses' union. She helped to promote postgraduate education for nurses. On 19 January 1949 she had chaired the inaugural meeting of the provisional council for the New South Wales College of Nursing, of which she was president (1949-50). In 1954 the association announced the McCready scholarship in honour of her work. She retired in 1960 and was appointed M.B.E. in 1963.

Georgina McCready died on 16 September 1980 at Leichhardt; her body was delivered to the University of Sydney's medical faculty. She had laboured to improve nursing standards and nurses' living and working conditions, to establish non-political and non-sectarian policies, and to bring about educational and cultural advancement.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Radi (ed), Jessie Street (Syd, 1990)
  • M. Dickenson, An Unsentimental Union (Syd, 1993)
  • Australian Nurses' Journal, 1931, Sept 1937, p 199
  • Lamp, Dec 1954, p iv, July 1963, p 3, Dec 1980, p 34, July 1989, p 14, Aug 1989, p 26
  • New South Wales Nurses' Association Archives (Australian National University Archives and Camperdown, Sydney)
  • New South Wales College of Nursing Archives (Glebe, Sydney)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Hazel Woolston, 'McCready, Georgina (1888–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Johnstone, Georgina

17 December, 1888
Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland


16 September, 1980 (aged 91)
Leichhardt, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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