Helen Mayo

Helen Mayo

Helen Mayo (1 October 1878 – 13 November 1967), Australian medical doctor, was a pioneer in women's and children's health in Australia.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1878, Mayo was educated at home and later at Adelaide's Advanced School for Girls. She studied medicine at the University of Adelaide, commencing in 1898. In 1901 she was awarded the university's Davies Thomas Scholarship, and in 1902 received the Everard Scholarship. Later that year, she graduated with Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees, and became only the second woman to graduate with a medical degree from the university, which at that time was the only university in the state.

From 1902 to 1903, Mayo was a surgeon at the Adelaide Hospital, before moving to England where she was a clerk at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. She was later a midwife in Dublin, Ireland and Delhi, India, before returning to Australia in 1906.

In 1904, Mayo founded and was the first president of the Adelaide Lyceum Club, which later merged into the Lyceum Club (Australia).

In 1906, Mayo opened a private practice in Adelaide, where she practiced as a midwife, and in other areas of women's and children's health. In 1909, along with social worker Harriet Stirling, she established the School for Mothers. Beginning in 1911, and continuing until 1933, Mayo was a clinical bacteriologist at the Adelaide Hospital. In 1913, Mayo and Stirling opened a special hospital for infants, which was absorbed by the Government of South Australia in 1917, becoming the Mareeba Babies' Hospital. In 1914, Mayo was elected to the Council of the University of Adelaide, the first woman to serve on an Australian university council. She served continuously on the council for forty-six years, until 1960.

From 1919 to 1926, Mayo was an honorary assistant physician at the Adelaide Children's Hospital. In 1926, Mayo was awarded her medical doctorate, becoming the first female medical doctor to graduate from the University of Adelaide. She was then promoted to honorary physician at the Children's Hospital. In the same year, she began lecturing at the University of Adelaide, specialising in children's diseases. She would lecture at the university until 1934. In 1927, she founded the Mothers and Babies' Health Association (now known as Child and Youth Health) as an offshoot of the School for Mothers.

On 3 June 1935, Mayo was made an Officer of the British Empire. From 1938 to 1940, Mayo was an honorary consulting physician at the Children's Hospital, and was the senior paediatric advisor from 1940 to 1945. Mayo was a founding fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in 1938, and was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine and was President of the Australian Federation of University Women.

In 1939, Mayo contributed to the founding of St Ann's College, initially a residential college for women studying at the University of Adelaide, and now also affiliated with Flinders University and the University of South Australia.

Mayo died in 1967.

In 1984, the Division of Mayo, an Australian House of Representatives electoral Division located in South Australia, was created and named after Mayo. Helen Mayo House, a facility at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital for women experiencing post-natal mental health problems, and the Mayo Refectory at the University of Adelaide, were also named after her.


* [http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0088b.htm Mayo, Helen Mary (1878 - 1967)]

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