Did you know the first female flying doctor in the world started her practice in Normanton on July 31st, 1937?
Her name was Dr Jean White and she was born in 1905 and graduated from Melbourne University in 1929. She worked in hospitals in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney then flew from Brisbane to Cloncurry on April 21st, 1937 to begin what amounted to a 3-month apprenticeship with flying doctor, Dr Gordon Alberry.
Thanks to an annual bequest, the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) signed a contract with Qantas Empire Airways to provide a second aircraft, a DH-83 Fox Moth and pilot Charles Swaffield. Dr Alberry continued with his work around Cloncurry and Dr White worked the Gulf region.
Until August 1939 when she moved to Dunbar, even further north and still with the AIM, Dr White changed attitudes in the hitherto ‘blokey’ area.
Women were generally happy to have a female doctor but, at first, many men, especially those who needed treatment for what are politely called ‘social diseases’, were less than impressed to be seen by a female doctor.
Reports indicate Dr White’s professional manner and personality gradually overcame inhibitions of that sort and she was widely respected for her work in the remote region.
She eventually established a private practice in Melbourne and died in 1974.
Photos of Dr White are rare but this one was taken at a picnic in Cloncurry in 1937 by a Dr Simpson and shows (l-r): Dr Jean White, Mrs Simpson (married to Dr Simpson), Rev Fred McKay (second-in-charge, AIM), Dr Gordon Alberry, Rev John Flynn (Director, AIM), Mrs Jean Flynn.