King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Perth, Western Australia

The original home of the King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, Perth, in a former Industrial School designed in the ‘Federation Free Style’ by Robert Haddon © State Library of Western Australia

This caught my eye earlier in the week, a piece that was written by Emma Wynne, based on research by Richard Offen from Heritage Perth, on a Women’s Hospital in Australia. [ref 1] The photograph shows the newly opened hospital around 1916. It was the culmination of years of effort to have a dedicated maternity hospital for Perth. In 1909, the women’s service guild held a meeting in the Government House Ballroom attended by 400 people to discuss the establishment of a such a hospital, and a committee formed to work towards that end. The committee included Edith Cowan, Mary Molloy [the wife of the Lord Mayor], Deborah Hackett and James Battye.

In 1913, the Public Health Annual Report noted the suggestion that rather than building the proposed hospital, a new ward should be added to Perth Public Hospital [now Royal Perth Hospital]. This was rejected by the committee, and  Edith Cowan suggested that if finances were the delaying factor, then perhaps the Government Industrial School building in Subiaco should be used. With the backing of the Minister for Health this was agreed. With accommodation for 20 patients and staff the Hospital was officially July 1916.

There was still a need to increase ward accommodation at the hospital, and early on a galvanised shed was brought to the site from Coolgardie, formerly a TB ward. After the First World War additions  were made to the building to cope with increasing number of patients. patients.

The New Art Deco Building 1939, designed by A E Clare of the Public Works Department © State Library of Western Australia

In the 1930s planning began on the art deco expansion to the hospital, which still forms the main entrance to the hospital today. The state heritage register documents state that the hospital’s matron travelled overseas to research the design. Among the noteworthy features incorporated in the new building were a central heating system, air conditioning, sound absorbing ceilings, a reserve auxiliary for electrical lighting and power, controlled lighting, and a public address system for paging doctors. It was officially opened on December 6, 1939 by the minister for health, Alexander Panton, who said it was part of what was intended to become the best maternity hospital in Australia.

King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women – Block A, Main Entrance by Kollision (Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
The Nurses Home, 1952, designed by Len Walters © State Library of Western Australia

In the 1950s new nurses quarters were built and in 1979 the multistorey B block was also built. In 1988 the hospital’s first building, the old industrial school, was renamed Harvey House in honour of the hospital’s first matron Eleanor Harvey. It is now used as the WA Medical Museum. The nurses quarters have since been converted to clinics and offices, as staff no longer live on site. In 2002 the whole site was placed on the state heritage register, but continues to operate as Western Australia’s only tertiary women’s hospital.