Woman Pines, Stella Edith Lottie (1884 - 1968)

21 June 1884
Balmain, New South Wales, Australia
Durban, South Africa
Broadcaster, Journalist and Nurse

Written by Madonna Grehan, The University of Melbourne

In the 1930s, Stella Pines led a movement which sought to make postgraduate education for nurses available at Australian universities. An articulate, forthright and tenacious individual, Miss Pines passionately believed in nursing's capacity to make a substantial contribution to improving public health, but she considered Australian nursing to be limited in scope because no pathway existed for nurses who wanted to extend their education beyond conventional roles and conventional education. At 5'11" in height and weighing 152lbs, Pines was described as 'a woman of attractive personality and undoubted ability' (Mercury, 21 May 1925) but, despite her attributes and her leadership on the issue of postgraduate education, ultimately she was unable to implement her vision for nursing. She had more success, however, in developing the new nursing field of occupational therapy for the mentally-ill.

Stella Edith Lottie Pines was born 21 June 1884, in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, one of nine children to Frederick Pitt Pines and his wife Miriam Ellen Angela, née Butler. Stella's father was a salesman, and later Managing Director, at WH Paling and Co. Ltd., a music publishing company. Her mother died when Stella was four; her father remarried. Stella went to Sydney Technical College for high school and, in her late twenties, entered Sydney Hospital to train as a nurse, finishing in December 1914. Her first appointment was as Deputy Matron at Newcastle Hospital but in mid-1915 Pines volunteered for the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). Newcastle Hospital released her, on the condition that she returned to complete her twelve month appointment, an agreement which Stella honoured.

From 1915 to 1918, Stella worked at various hospitals in Egypt, England and Europe. In 1917, she was mentioned in dispatches for 'valuable services rendered in connection with the War' (Sydney Morning Herald, 28 July 1917), and the next year was promoted to Sister. Stella later wrote that military service opened her eyes to the importance of public health work because she observed during the war that many serving soldiers were physically and mentally unfit. For the rest of her life, Stella Pines was an evangelist on nursing's potential contribution to public health through dietetics and occupational therapy for those with a mental illness. After the 1914-1918 War, this enthusiastic self-starter pursued further education and training in public health, nurse education, and nursing administration.

Pines completed midwifery at the Royal Hospital for Women Paddington in 1919-20 followed by infant welfare, a relatively new field of nursing, at the Karitane Baby Hospital and the District of Dunedin in New Zealand. With that qualification she became matron of the Royal Society for the Welfare of Mothers and Babies Home at Petersham in Sydney, otherwise known as the Tresillian Mothercraft Home and Training Hospital. She later moved to Tasmania as Matron at the Queen Victoria Hospital, Launceston's maternity hospital, where she developed a reputation for promoting breast feeding and emulating the teachings of Sir F. Truby King. In May 1925, Pines was drawn to Hobart, as foundation matron of a new Child Welfare Association Home, Flint House, at New Town.

Curious about courses in public health nursing which had become available in America and Canada, in 1926 Stella embarked on a self-funded, four-and half-year, study program through Canada, the United States of America, England and Europe. First, she completed a certificate in Public Health Nursing in 1927, at McGill University School for Graduate Nurses which was then under the visionary stewardship of Flora Madeline Shaw. The course was substantive, covering: elementary psychology, principles of teaching, bacteriology, preventive medicine, history of nursing, public health nursing theory and practice, sociology, social work, physical diagnoses, mento-psychiatry and mental hygiene, control of communicable disease, and public speaking. To support herself financially, Stella tutored nursing students, lectured for Women's Institutes and for the Department of Agriculture, worked for the Victorian Order of Nurses in Canada, did private nursing, and wrote magazine articles. Next, she completed a one year course in teaching and administration for graduate nurses, in June 1929, at the University of Toronto. She was admitted to the College of Nursing, London, as a member. While in London she also completed the certificate of the Royal Sanitary Institute London qualifying as a Sanitary Inspector. For the time, and for an Australian nurse, this level of education was unprecedented.

In between her studies, Pines immersed herself in the public health arena, enlisting advice from luminaries, such as Dame Janet Campbell of London's Ministry of Health, and Dr Malcolm McEachern, Director of the American Hospitals Association. She attended numerous conferences and made clinical visits to various institutions: the Mayo Clinic Minnesota, John Hopkins University, Yale University and the Presbyterian Hospital in New York. She visited organisations to learn how they approached public health matters, among them: the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Council of Nurses, and the International Council of the Red Cross. For an Australian nurse, this level of engagement was extraordinary. The study tour of international trends in nursing and public health convinced Pines that Australian nurses needed similar opportunities, through postgraduate education based at university.

In 1930, Stella Pines drew up a plan for nursing education in Australia, for a national scheme for university-based graduate schools co-ordinated by an overarching body which she called an Australian college of nursing. Convinced that she was the individual suited to lead this movement, she lobbied senior public servants and politicians in Australia, among them Dr John Cumpston, Director General of Health; Ministers of Health, CW Marr MP and Billy Hughes MP. Later she wrote to Joe Lyons, the Prime Minister, seeking a position in overseeing nurses' education in public health, without avail. In Victoria, Stella enlisted the support of Mrs Mabel Brookes, whom she had met in America, and Dr James Barrett with whom she had had contact on nursing education. From 1932 to 1934, Stella Pines and her supporters valiantly tried to implement the plan for a university diploma in nursing at the University of Melbourne, with the intention of streaming nurses into public health roles. Ultimately, Victoria's professional nursing fraternity, under the leadership of Miss Jane Bell Lady Superintendent of the Melbourne Hospital, arrested Miss Pines' and her committee's administrative direction. A College of Nursing was established in Victoria in 1934 but it was on Jane Bell's watch, and not remotely in the form that Stella Pines had envisaged.

Pines was more successful in the field of social service, another specialty area for nurses. In South Australia and Queensland she was prominent in movements aimed at breaking down prejudice which surrounded mental illness. She was a founding member and inaugural secretary of the South Australian Council for Mental Hygiene, and the founder and inaugural president of the South Australian Auxiliary Committee for Occupational Therapy for Mental Hospitals. Pines was credited, too, with founding the South Australian Board of Study and Training for Social Service. Supporting herself through journalism, Stella developed a substantial public profile through her articles in South Australian newspapers and her radio broadcasts, dispensing advice on maternal and infant health, mental hygiene and public health. In Queensland she was Honorary Secretary to that state's Council for the Study and Training in Social Service, which offered courses in social service to nurses and others via a diploma, a certificate and preliminary.

Around 1940 Stella Pines left Australia for South Africa, taking a position in Johannesburg. In 1941 she founded the 'Transvaal Anzac Club' in Johannesburg, providing support for Australian and New Zealand soldiers (Advertiser, 1 July 1941). She moved to Durban where, at the age of fifty-nine, she registered as a medical and surgical nurse in the Union of South Africa. Stella Pines died at Durban in 1968.

Archival Resources

National Archives of Australia

  • Midwives & Nurses Miss Stella Pines' Activities, 1930 - 1935, 143499; National Archives of Australia. Details
  • Personal Papers of Prime Minister Lyons, Correspondence 'P' [D Phillips - A Poynton, re personal representations, Stella Pines, post-graduate nursing courses, E J Pitchford, J B Polsue], 17 November 1933 - 05 December 1934, 780665; National Archives of Australia. Details

Published Resources


  • Trembath, Richard & Hellier, Donna, All Care and Responsibility: A History of Nursing in Victoria, 1850-1934, Florence Nightingale Committee, Australia, Victorian Branch, Melbourne, Victoria, 1987. Details

Newspaper Articles

Online Resources

See also