Recently digitised is a beautiful photograph album compiled by nurse, Florence Chatfield, who made a significant contribution to the nursing profession in Queensland during a long and distinguished career. The album along with other items, including photographs, a cutting book, certificates and ephemera, was generously donated to the library by staff from the Diamantina Health Care Museum located at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Florence Chatfield (1867-1949) was born in Worthing, Sussex, England, and migrated to Queensland with her sister, Emily, in 1885. Their widowed father joined them several years later with the other children. With her sisters, Florence trained as a nurse at the Brisbane General Hospital where she became charge nurse in 1892 and later deputy matron.
She was matron of the Diamantina Hospital for Chronic Diseases from 1900 to 1934 and was also the supervisor and organizer of the Queensland Government Baby Clinics, from their inception in 1918 until 1923. In 1918 a small rented cottage in Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, opened to house the first clinic.
In 1925 she was also responsible for the establishment of a nurses’ rest home, located at Bowen Hills, for nurses who, through age or disability, could no longer work. She was awarded the order of the British Empire in 1932 and retired from nursing in 1934. Florence died in Brisbane on the 5 November 1949 and was described in an obituary as “a guide, philosopher and friend to hundreds of nurses in Queensland”.
The photograph album includes many photographs of the Diamantina Hospital, which transitioned from an orphanage, to a hospital for chronic diseases in 1901. The hospital catered for patients suffering from diseases such as consumption, now known as pulmonary tuberculosis. Treatment consisted of rest, sunlight, good food, and fresh air for those with early infection.
Those with chronic consumption needed more intensive nursing and isolation to prevent the spread of the disease. Two new open-air wards were built a short distance from the main hospital for open air treatment of patients. Florence Chatfield was appointed matron of the newly furbished hospital in 1900 and also served as superintendent from 1904.
The album also includes some rare photographs of the Jubilee Sanatorium in Dalby which was established in 1900 to treat consumptive patients.
Eventually the Diamantina Hospital outlived its purpose as cases of tuberculosis declined and the old buildings fell into disrepair. In 1956 a new 600 bed hospital was built on the same land nearer Ipswich Road. This was later named the Princess Alexandra Hospital. The only remaining structure from the Diamantina Hospital is the heritage listed former Dispenser’s House which opened in 2004 as the Diamantina Health Care Museum. It was here that this lovely album was cared for as a lasting remembrance of the old hospital and Florence Chatfield who dedicated her life to the profession of nursing.
The Florence Chatfield Album may be viewed online, while the entire collection, Accession 31231, may be viewed at the John Oxley Library.
Lynn Meyers, Specialist Librarian, Queensland Memory