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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


GORDON, Doris Clifton, M.B.E.


Medical practitioner and social worker.

A new biography of Gordon, Doris Clifton appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Dr Doris Gordon was a general practitioner of medicine who played an important role in the establishment of an efficient maternity service for New Zealand. She was born in Melbourne, on 10 July 1890, daughter of the late Alfred Jolly of the National Bank of New Zealand. She came to New Zealand with her parents as a small child and received her education at the University of Otago. In 1908 she entered the medical school where she graduated in 1913, after a distinguished undergraduate career. She spent two busy years as a house officer in the Dunedin Hospital and then accepted the position of assistant to the Professor of Bacteriology and Public Health, Sydney Champtaloup. During this period she qualified for the Diploma of Public Health. In 1917 she married Dr William Gordon of Stratford and from then until her death she engaged in a busy dual private practice with a brief interregnum when she held the position of Director of Maternal and Infant Welfare in the Department of Health.

Dr Gordon was a woman of immense energy and enthusiasm. She could be well described as a “human dynamo”. To these natural gifts she added a flair for organisation and a great gift of effective public speaking. Her first notable public service was the organisation of a national campaign to endow a full-time Chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the Medical School in the University of Otago. She travelled throughout the country interviewing possible donors and addressing large meetings of women. The appeal was so successful that funds became available not only to achieve the objective of £25,000, but also to endow two national scholarships for medical graduates to go overseas for postgraduate training. This success only served to stimulate her active interest in the general improvement of obstetrical practice in New Zealand by the formation of a branch of the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of the United Kingdom and in the establishment and endowment of a post-graduate School of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the University of Auckland.

In the course of all this extra-mural work she carried on a busy practice, gained the F.R.C.S. (Edin.), received the honour of an honorary fellowship of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and brought up a family of one daughter and three sons, two of whom have qualified in medicine. One is a member of Parliament. She died at Stratford, Taranaki, on 9 July 1956, shortly after her autobiography, Backblocks Baby Doctor was published.

Dr Gordon's life was one of service and achievement.

by Charles Ernest Hercus, KT., D.S.O., O.B.E., U.D., M.B. CH.B.(N.Z.), M.D., D.P.H., B.D.S., F.R.C.P., F.R.A.C.P., F.R.A.C.S., Emeritus Professor, University of Otago.

  • Backblocks Baby Doctor, Gordon, D. C. (1956)
  • Doctor Down Under, Gordon, D. C. (1957)
  • Annals of the University of Otago Medical School, 1875–1939, Carmalt-Jones, D. W. (1945).


Charles Ernest Hercus, KT., D.S.O., O.B.E., U.D., M.B. CH.B.(N.Z.), M.D., D.P.H., B.D.S., F.R.C.P., F.R.A.C.P., F.R.A.C.S., Emeritus Professor, University of Otago.