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Eunice Muriel Harriett Hunt Paten (1883–1973)

by K. E. Gill

This article was published:

Eunice Muriel Harriett Hunt Paten (1883-1973), nurse, was born on 13 June 1883 at Enoggera, Brisbane, daughter of English parents Jesse Paten, farmer, and his wife Eliza, née Hunt. Eunice was educated at the Misses Jardine's school, at Brisbane Girls' Grammar, and with her three sisters as a foundation pupil of Miss Fewings' Brisbane High School for Girls. She began nursing training at Brisbane Hospital in February 1905, topped her final year and graduated in 1908. She stayed on as a staff nurse for six months. Joining the Australian Army Nursing Service reserve, she nursed privately while saving for five years towards a midwifery course at the Women's Hospital, Melbourne. Eunice had just completed her midwifery training when war broke out. She volunteered for service abroad and sailed on 24 September 1914 with the 9th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.

One of the first four Queensland nurses to go on active service, Sister Paten served in Alexandria, Cairo and the New Zealand Hospital at Pont De Koubbeh, Abbassia, then in the 1st Australian General Hospital treating the wounded from Gallipoli. As senior sister in charge of forty-five sisters and staff nurses, she sailed for England on 23 September 1915 and nursed at Queen Mary's Military Hospital, Whalley, where she and other Australian nurses disliked 'the poor-law training' of English nurses; she reputedly persuaded the doctors to allow Australian nurses to do all the dressings. She moved to the 3rd A.G.H. at Brighton, then in February 1917 as head sister to the 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Southall. Briefly acting matron, she became head sister at the 25th General Hospital at Hardelot, France, on 1 April 1918.

At the end of the war, Sister Paten was awarded the Royal Red Cross (2nd class). She returned to Australia as sister-in-charge of the invalid transport, Nestor. Quarantined at Lytton, Brisbane, during the influenza epidemic, she worked for the A.I.F. at Kangaroo Point Hospital until May 1919, then took her long leave. In 1920 she and an ex-A.I.F. friend Tessa Thomas opened Holyrood Private Hospital in Gregory Terrace; on Tessa's later remarriage Eunice bought out her share. Sturdy, of middle height, indomitable but kind, Matron Paten was a shrewd businesswoman with a nice sense of humour. She was a member of the Brisbane Women's and Lyceum clubs and enjoyed gardening. She closed Holyrood when her mother died in 1936.

Paten had been a fund-raiser for the Nurses' Rest Home, was a council-member of the Queensland branch, Australasian Trained Nurses' Association in 1920-48, and first nurse president in 1943-48 of the (Royal) Australian Nursing Federation. She joined the Queensland Bush Nursing Association in 1922, was honorary secretary in 1939-49 and treasurer later. She was a foundation member of the Queensland branches of the Florence Nightingale International Foundation, the Australian Aerial Medical Services, and the College of Nursing Australia (foundation honorary secretary, president (1959) and councillor till 1960).

In 1937 Matron Paten represented the 1st Military District in the A.A.N.S.'s coronation contingent in London, and was a delegate to the International Congress of Lyceum clubs and to the Congress of the International Council of Nurses, where she argued for Australia's admission. Having remained in the army reserve as principal matron, Northern Command, attached to the Military Hospital at Enoggera in 1924-41, she enlisted the first Queensland army sisters to go abroad in World War II. She became a foundation and executive member of the Centaur memorial fund for nurses.

Paten's appointment in 1959 as M.B.E. was associated with her work for the College of Nursing which honoured her with the Eunice Paten oration from 1970. She died on 1 February 1973 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. She had not married.

Select Bibliography

  • Biographical Record of Queensland Women (Brisb, 1939)
  • P. G. Freeman, History of Somerville House (Brisb, 1949)
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 22 Feb 1919, 13 June 1959, 6 Feb 1973
  • E. Paten, Reminiscences of Nursing (talk to Queensland Womens' Historical Association, 8 June 1967, copy in State Library of Queensland)
  • private information.

Citation details

K. E. Gill, 'Paten, Eunice Muriel Harriett Hunt (1883–1973)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


13 June, 1883
Enoggera, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


1 February, 1973 (aged 89)
Greenslopes, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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