Monday, August 15, 2011

Sydney's Crown Street Hospital

The Next Chapter History Group runs on the 4th Thursday of every month and uncovers the history of the local area with special guest speakers. Inside History Magazine is the proud sponsor of the group and supporter of Randwick Branch Library.

This month's subject is presented by:
Speaker: Dr Judith Godden
Title: Researching the history of Crown Street Women's Hospital

When: 10.30am - 11.30am, 25th August 2011
Where: Randwick Branch Library
Address: Level 1, 73 Belmore Rd, Royal Randwick Shopping Centre
Bookings: Bookings are not required
Cost: Free
Contact: For more information, call Jane on 02 9314 4888

Dr Judith Godden is a professional historian who is writing a commissioned history of Crown Street Women's Hospital. Her book Lucy Osburn, a lady displaced. Florence Nightingale's envoy to Australia (Sydney University Press) was short-listed for Australia's 2008 National Biography Award. She will have two books published this year: Australia’s Controversial Matron: Gwen Burbidge and Nursing Reform (The College of Nursing, Sydney) and, with Carol Helmstadter, Nursing before Nightingale 1815-1890.

Her illustrated talk will be on her work in progress writing the first comprehensive history of Crown Street Women's Hospital in Surry Hills. Her talk will focus on the reasons for writing its history and why people protested so vigorously against its closure in 1983. An important theme is how the surviving records, and gaps in that record, determine our understanding of the past. She especially welcomes the opportunity for discussion and to hear any memories you might have of Crown Street.

Are you researching relatives that worked or were patients at the Crown Street Hospital? Here is where we would start our research:

Photograph of Crown Street Women’s Hospital courtesy of State Record


  1. I was a 5th year medical student in 1961 and was at Crown Street for a few weeks of practical obstetrics. Further, from January until June in 1965 I was a Resident Doctor. I still remember to this day the way young unmarried mothers were treated. We were ordered to prevent them from seeing their newborn or even from knowing the sex of the baby. I routinely broke the rules out of compassion for these young girls and, of course, was yelled at by the (mostly) spinster "sisters" and the matron. We were reminded that these were "BFOs" (baby for adoption). We were never cruel to these girls and treated them the same as all the other mothers in our care. I have been a practising General Practitioner in Canada since April 1968 and have just recently retired.
    Dr Peter A. Loveless, M.B., B,S.(Sydney1963),DRCOG (London)

  2. Thank you for your comment. My baby was one of those BFAs born at Crown St, but in October of 1964. What a shame you weren't there then, since nobody 'routinely broke the rules' for me or my baby and there was no 'compassion' shown for us at all. Every member of staff I encountered was 'cruel' and I certainly was not treated like 'all the other mothers'. Only the unmarried ones were removed from the hospital hours after the birth and confined in an annexe miles away from Crown St to ensure there was absolutely no possibility of mothers ever seeing their child. However, in a matter of weeks, the Prime Minister will apologise to some of us, and I'm sure that will make me feel much better about the entire experience.

    1. I lost my baby at Crown Street in 1966. The practices were barbaric. Single girls were treated as if they were nothing. Papers were marked BFA- long before the baby was born. Single girls were forbidden to see their babies but of course they made sure they didn't ask because they moved them to an annex and kept them drugged until they signed the papers.

      Crown Street and anyone who took part in these curel,illegal practices should hang their heads in shame. This hospital should be remembered as it was - A Baby factory to provide babies for infertile couples not as some historic place.

    2. We have an older sister who was
      taken from our mother on August the 3rd 1966. Again, it was Crown Street Hospital and I agree completely with the comments
      by the person above. To all of those that worked there and mistreated young mothers like they did my mother...I hope you suffer every day just like our mother does for the loss of our sister...because those of you that refered to children like our sister as a 'BFA' should be in prison....what an unforgivable and disgraceful way to treat fellow's appauling that these women and children were not treated half as well as some of the illegal immigrants that turn up here...there's a terrible history of how we treat our own in this much has got change!!!!

  3. sorry for my ignorance - but where were family members? the parents of the young mothers being forced to relinquish their children? did they not have a say in this ?

  4. My mother was unmarried in 1963. Stories i have been told are that I was meant for adoption at crown street woman,s hospital. All along the expectation was one baby. however upon delivery she had two babies. Because no one, my mother or grandmother for that matter ever talked about this I can,t verify as they have both passed. Knowing my Grandmother(who was a tough old bird)she would have fought tooth and nail to keep us both. I am going to try and access my birth records from crown street which I am hoping will clarify the matter. My grandmother ending up as our gaurdian, while my mother was a live in kitchen hand.