Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Friday, July 08, 2011

More on Aboriginal midwife May Yarrowyk

Back in March 2008, Aboriginal midwife - the mystery of May Yarrowyck introduced the story of Aboriginal midwife May Yarrowyck. In May 2009 I posted May Yarrowyck - an update just to record a reference sent to me by Kim Harvie.  May Yarrowyk's grave Kim Harvie

Kim has now sent me  a photo of May's grave. This gives us a fair bit of additional information.

To summarise what I think that we now know:

  • I recorded May's name as Yarrowyck as in the mountain, but her name on the gravestone is spelt with an i.
  • She was born in or around 1876. By then, the New Tablelands' Aboriginal peoples were strongly affected by European intrusion. We do not know whether she was full or part Aboriginal.
  • May's mother died in childbirth. We do not know who brought her up.
  • She trained in nursing at St Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. Founded in 1857 by the Order of the Sisters of Charity from Dublin, the hospital shifted to its present site in 1870.
  • The inscription on the gravestone A.T.N.A. refers to the Australasian Trained Nurses Association formed in 1899 to establish/upgrade professional standards for nurses. This confirms that May was a fully qualified nurse, so she must have acquired the necessary school level education.
  • She practiced as a midwife around Bundarra for many years, riding long distances to provide support.

  All very interesting. As I said in my first post, this is a very early cases of an Aboriginal person with a professional qualification.


Helen said...

Thanks, most interesting.

Jim Belshaw said...

A pleasure, Helen.

distance runner said...

Hi Jim,

I haven't found her birth in my research however one of the Bundarra reels is missing for the Church of England. Interesting story which relates to my interest of positive black and white relations on the frontier. Caroline

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Caroline. Comment appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Exciting to hear on the local news this morning that there is a move to have a bridge near Bundarra renamed the "Nurse May Yarrowyck" bridge.

Jim Belshaw said...

Good news. Which bridge?

Elizabeth said...

May's father was white. Just who is not known. She was bought up by Mrs Kelly at Stony Creek.
I believe she was trained at Paddington Royal Women's Hospital.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks for the information, Elizabeth