Dr Hannah Helen Sexton  (1862 – 1950)

Better known as Helen this inspirational woman completed her Arts Degree in 1880. In 1887 she challenged contemporary female gender restrictions by approaching the Melbourne University Council for permission to become amongst the first women to enrol in medicine. Helen was the third woman to graduate in 1892 (MB,BS).

Along with Dr Constance Stone and six others she founded the first women’s hospital in Victoria – Queen Victoria Hospital for Women and Children – and became the first female honorary gynaecological surgeon at any Victorian hospital.

After having relocated to Europe Helen applied to join the British Army upon the declaration of World War 1. When her application was rejected she opted to fundraise for her own military hospital. The tented Hopital Australien de Paris in France opened in July 1915 and Helen was awarded the rank of Major within the French army.

She then took up a surgical position in the nearby Val de Grace Military Hospital which specialised in reconstructive surgery on injured soldiers.

After the war Helen resumed her practice at Toorak in Melbourne.

You can read about this trailblazing woman, along with at least 20 other Australian female doctors, who ignored official military policy and headed to the frontlines during World War 1 in Women To The Front. It is a fascinating read about history that remained almost invisible for 100 years.

Celebrating the women from our past to the present who have helped shape Australia.

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