Woman Wilson, Grace Margaret (1879 - 1957)

South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Campbell, Mrs Bruce (Married Name)

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Grace Wilson was born in South Brisbane in 1879, the eldest child of clerk, John Pearson Wilson and his wife Fanny. She trained as a nurse at the Brisbane Hospital and after her graduation in 1908 completed further training in Britain before returning to Australia in 1914 to take up the position of Matron at her old training institution.

On the outbreak of the first world war Wilson joined the Australian Army Nursing Service and was appointed principal matron of the first military district. In 1915 she proceeded overseas as principal matron of the 3rd Australian general hospital, one of several positions she would occupy during the war. Much decorated for her war service she was discharged in 1920 and proceeded to Melbourne to take up an appointment as Matron of the Children's Hospital. Here she found herself in conflict with the hospital committee and resigned after two years to establish her own private hospital in East Melbourne. In 1933 she returned to the public system as matron of Melbourne's Alfred Hospital where she remained until she returned to military service in 1940. Her second tour of duty was short lived as ill health forced her to return to Australia in 1941, but in 1943 she took up the role of executive officer of the nursing control centre of the Manpower Directorate for the duration of the war.

Throughout her career Wilson worked to improve the conditions under which nurses were trained and worked. A member of both the Australasian and Victorian Trained Nurses Associations, she served as President of the Royal Victorian College of Nurses and played an important role in its introduction of postgraduate education for nurses. She also played a leadership role in the Returned Nurses Club, the Edith Cavell Trust and was involved in a range of ex-service and community organisations.

In 1953 Wilson was the first woman to be granted life membership in the Returned Servicemen's League. Married in 1954, Wilson died in Melbourne in 1957.

Published Resources


  • McCullagh, Catherine, Willingly into the Fray: one hundred years of Australian Army nursing, Big Sky Publishing, Newport, New South Wales, 2010. Details

Online Resources