The Trailblazers

Dr J W Springthorpe

Dr Springthorpe was Chairman in 1920 and President of the Society for the Health of Women and Children of Victoria 1921 – 1932. He is credited as being the first President of the Victorian Trained Nurses Association established in 1901. Dr Springthorpe, together with Sister Maude Primrose worked tirelessly to attract funding to finance the Tweddle Baby Hospital.

An enthusiastic worker for child welfare and mothercraft, Dr Springthorpe took an active part in the foundation of the Tweddle (Truby King) home at Footscray

The Argus Melbourne, Monday 23 April 1933

Born in 1885 in Staffordshire England, he immigrated with his family arriving in Balmain, Sydney in 1861. His first medical position was at Beechworth Asylum.

He eventually returned to London in 1881 working at a number of Hospitals, and in 1883 returned to Australia as a pathologist at the Alfred Hospital. Married to Annie Constance Inglis, 26 January 1887, they took up residence in the ‘Camelot’ building at 83 Collins Street Melbourne.

The Springthorpe Memorial in Kew is a Victorian Era memorial built for Doctor John Springthorpe in memory of his wife Annie Springthorpe (nee Inglis) who died in 1897 giving birth to their fourth child (Guy). In later years following the death of his first wife, he remarried (Daisy), and moved to Murrumbeena.

There is an inscription:

Loves Music Hushed and Two Hearts Dumb
And Death Not Life Thine Angel Now
My Own True Love
Pattern Daughter Perfect Mother and Ideal Wife
Born on the 26th day of January 1867
Married on the 26th day of January 1887
Buried on the 26th day of January 1897

In 1933 The Argus praised it as the most beautiful work of its kind in Australia.

Sister Maud Primrose

In 1918 Maud Primrose, a trained nurse who became the Secretary and a Life Member of the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses Association, wrote to the Footscray Council. She suggested the establishment of a ‘fees for services’ scheme for the services of visiting nurses, based on the New Zealand scheme. New Zealand had a world record low infant mortality rate at that time. She had undertaken specialised training for a year in about 1913, at the Plunket Society in Dunedin New Zealand, under the distinctive regime of (Sir) Frederic Truby King at Karitane.

After returning to Melbourne, Primrose threw herself into what became her major life’s work, the promotion of the Truby King method of caring for babies. With the support of her mentor Dr  John Springthorpe, between 1916 and 1920 she helped to establish the Society for the Health of Women and Children of Victoria—Plunket System. A rival to the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association, the first Truby King or Plunket infant welfare clinic opened at Coburg in 1919.

As well as cycling to her patients, she was one of the first women in Melbourne to hold a motorcar driver’s licence

Several other clinics followed, and specially trained mothercraft nurses also worked in private homes and gave advice in department stores. Trained at the Tweddle Hospital for Babies and School of Mothercraft from 1921, the nurses were formally named ‘Primrose nurses’. In subsequent years the lively debates over the most appropriate regime for feeding and managing babies, particularly over the protein content of artificial milk formula, made infant welfare more like ‘infant warfare’.

Primrose founded the Truby King Mothercraft League of South Australia in October 1934 then returned to Victoria to run a hospital again at Kerang. Her influence continued in the mid-1930s through her articles on infant care in the New Idea and the Housewife, and radio broadcasts, ‘The 3UZ Truby King Mother Craft Circle’.

Reports of Primrose’s initiative as a pioneer nurse suggested her strength and determination, but her gentleness, mischievous nature, and personal warmth and affection for children belied the rigidity and discipline of the Truby King system. An attractive, strong woman, she was known as ‘Sandy’ by some family members because of her reddish hair. She also spent some time with her sister Lily and her family at their property near Balranald, New South Wales.


Mr J Hume-Cook

Mr James Hume-Cook  was the Honorary Secretary of the Society (1866 – 1942)

Mr James Hume Cook (1866-1942) was born in Kihikihi, New Zealand, later migrating with his family to Melbourne in 1881. In 1893, he was elected to Brunswick Town Council and in 1896 became mayor. Mr James Hume-Cook was the Honorary Secretary of The Society for the Health of Women and Children of Victoria, the foundation for the Tweddle Baby Hospital and School of Mothercraft.

He had also been involved in orchard-growing, mining and insurance companies and charitable organizations. He published a book of Australian fairy tales and wrote hundreds of protectionist pamphlets, patriotic poetry, and several manuscripts, including his memoirs.

Hume Cook served as Hon. Secretary of the Society for 10 years, 4 years as Honorary Treasurer, and after the death of Dr James Springthorpe, became President 1933-1941.