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Jenifer Hedley Edols Whitecross (1926–1988)

by Louella McCarthy

This article was published:

Jenifer Hedley Edols Whitecross (1926-1988), veterinary surgeon and administrator, was born on 18 February 1926 at Darlinghurst, Sydney, second child of New South Wales-born parents Thomas Reginald Edols, grazier, and his wife Myrtle Florence Daisy, née Higgins. Jenifer grew up on her father’s property Gowan Green, Dripstone, near Wellington. After being educated by correspondence and later as a boarder at Frensham, Mittagong, she studied veterinary science at the University of Sydney (B.V.Sc., 1949), winning the Baker and Ridley memorial prize for animal husbandry. She played first-grade hockey for the university.

Veterinary science was a profession slow to attract women. Prior to 1949 twenty-one women had graduated from Sydney. In Jenifer’s year there were six women graduands, but this number was not reached again until the 1960s. For her first job Edols moved to suburban Melbourne, where she became an assistant in the practice of L. F. McManamny. In 1952–53 she spent a year in Britain with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, assisting farmers with their livestock. On her return to Australia in 1956 she joined R. T. Pursell at the North Shore Veterinary Hospital, Sydney, a small-animal practice; she stayed for over a decade.

Edols was a stalwart of the Australian Veterinary Association from 1949. The articles she published in the Australian Veterinary Journal reflected her wide-ranging interests, including the application of cytogenetic techniques, for example in her analysis of the causes of hermaphroditism in dogs. An avid reader with eclectic tastes, she speculated on the nature of animal intelligence and art appreciation, as well as commenting on the latest scientific debates. Her sharp mind and dry wit enhanced her reviews, which included lines such as: ‘there are helpful hints and pieces of advice among the chaff’. For her, dogs were a professional and a leisure interest.

From 1960 to 1970 Edols served on the New South Wales divisional committee of the AVA, the first woman among the fourteen-member group. She worked on many of the association’s subcommittees and represented it on the New South Wales Council of Professions. Breaking more new ground as a female member of the AVA, she presided over the State division in 1964-66, became a fellow in 1971, and sat on the national council in 1974-75.

A commitment to the provision of quality veterinary surgery informed Edols’s decision in 1968 to accept the position of graduate assistant to the assistant-registrar dealing with the faculty of veterinary science at the University of Sydney. Participating in international discussions about the form and function of veterinary education, she travelled to the United States of America, Britain and Europe to report on developments. She introduced the professional placements program and liaised with participating veterinary practices. In 1973 she was promoted to senior graduate assistant; she retired in 1982.

Edols married Roy Hamilton Whitecross, who had been an assistant-registrar at the University of Sydney, on 5 February 1987 at the registry of births, deaths and marriages, Sydney. Survived by her husband, she died of cancer on 12 March 1988 at Kirribilli and was cremated. In 2006 she was among the one hundred women veterinarians named on the Belle Bruce Reid honour roll, a program commemorating the centenary of the registration of the first woman in veterinary science in Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Veterinary Journal, Feb 1968, p 54, Sept 1971, p 452, 5 Aug 1988, ‘AVA News’, p 3
  • Australian Veterinary Historical Record, no 25, July 1999, p 14, no 26, Nov 1999, p 2.

Citation details

Louella McCarthy, 'Whitecross, Jenifer Hedley Edols (1926–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 24 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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