Woman Healy, Mary (Mother Gertrude) (1865 - 1952)

24 July 1865
Dublin, Ireland
28 April 1952
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Hospital administrator and Religious sister
Alternative Names
  • Mother Gertrude

Written by Shurlee Swain, Australian Catholic University

Mary Healy was born in Dublin in 1865, the daughter of ironmonger, Francis Healy and his wife Annie. She migrated with her family to Australia where she was educated at Mary's Mount Ballarat, under Mother Mary Gonzaga Barry. After undertaking some teacher training she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity in 1889 and was professed in 1891 taking the name of Sister Gertrude.

Having trained as a nurse following her profession, Healy worked at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital of which she became Mother Rectress in 1910. During her ten years in charge the hospital grew rapidly with the aim of becoming a clinical school of the University of Sydney, an association finally secured by her successor Mother Mary Berchmans.

After four years in charge of the order's private hospital in Darlinghurst, Daly was transferred in 1924 to Melbourne where she became rectress of that city's St Vincent's Hospital. Once again her period in charge was marked by expansion and change, made possible by her success as a fund-raiser, mobilising a network of auxiliaries to support the hospital. Undertaken at the depth of the depression the building works provided much needed employment in the city (Argus, 18 December 1931). Healy was also responsible for the introduction of training for dieticians, and of professional social work to the hospital, hiring pioneer Catholic social worker Norma Parker to undertake a role which the sisters had previously regarded as their own.

In 1932 Healy travelled to Europe to study the latest developments in hospital construction and management. Her findings guided changes both at St Vincent's Melbourne and St Vincent's private hospital in Sydney to which she returned as rectress in 1934, serving a further nine years before she took the same position at the much-expanded public hospital. She introduced a range of professional specialisations to the hospital and made plans for an expansion into maternity and children's medicine, delayed somewhat by the Vatican ban on sisters working in obstetrics, a ban which was not lifted until 1936.

Returning to the private hospital in 1947, Healy was a key source of information for all within her order engaged in hospital management, with her administrative skills admired across the sector as a whole. She died in 1952. A wing of St Vincent's hospital in Melbourne is named in her honour.

Published Resources


  • Egan, Bryan, Ways of a Hospital: St Vincent's Melbourne 1890s-1990s, Allen & Unwin and the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Sydney, New South Wales, 1993. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also