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Pattrick, Anne

by Linda Bryder


Annie (later known as Anne) Pattrick was born on 19 July 1881 at Christchurch, the fifth of nine children of Joseph Laughton Pattrick, a butcher, and his wife, Mary Dennis. She developed a passion for nursing, which she later attributed to a time during her childhood when she nursed one of her brothers over an extended period.

After general nurse training at Christchurch Hospital from 1911 to 1914, Anne Pattrick took a four-month course at the Karitane-Harris Hospital for babies in Dunedin. It had been set up by Frederic Truby King in 1907 to train nurses for the Society for the Promotion of the Health of Women and Children (later the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society). Marked by King as having outstanding qualities, Pattrick was immediately appointed to the staff.

She served during the First World War, departing on the hospital ship Marama in 1915. While on active service she became engaged to be married to an Australian soldier, but he was to die in England in the 1918 influenza epidemic. During the war King had been invited by the British government to set up in London an infant welfare centre along Plunket lines, and he chose Pattrick to help him. Accordingly, she was released from army service in January 1918 and appointed matron of the Babies of the Empire Society's new Mothercraft Training Centre, a position she held until 1920. This centre, subsequently named Cromwell House, grew to be an important model for infant welfare work in Britain.

A few weeks after Anne Pattrick returned to New Zealand in 1920 her mother died and she threw herself into Plunket work. Initially, she was matron for six months of the Karitane-Harris Hospital, then briefly nurse assistant to King when he took up his position as director of child welfare in the Department of Health in 1921. From early 1921 she was director of Plunket nursing (a title established especially for her), taking charge in the districts and at the Karitane hospitals.

The Plunket Society grew rapidly in the 1920s in New Zealand. By 1929 it employed 129 nurses and ran six hospitals, with branches and sub-branches throughout the country to support the services. Pattrick was the 'directing genius' of the expanding services. She travelled the country, meeting, lecturing and inspiring nurses as well as local voluntary committees. Universally known as Miss Pattrick, or as 'Nance' to the many friends she acquired through Plunket, she was an excellent administrator and a model nurse. She imbued the service with a strong morale and sense of purpose as well as standardising and improving education in infant nursing.

In 1925 Anne Pattrick took six months' leave to train as a midwife at St Helens Hospital, Gisborne. Around that time her health began to decline, and she required several periods of extended leave. An administrative assistant was appointed to ease her growing workload in November 1925. She was granted leave to go overseas in 1928, though her travels were delayed until June 1929 owing to ill health. She visited Canada, the United States and England, and while in Canada was one of the New Zealand delegates to the congress of the International Council of Nurses in Toronto.

Returning to New Zealand in October 1930, Anne Pattrick found her relationship with the executive of Plunket's central council had deteriorated. Not only were there claims of inefficiency in the service owing to her constant ill health, but her 'loyalty and obedience' to the central council were questioned. What evolved was a power struggle between the voluntary members of the executive committee and the salaried health professionals. In November 1933 she was asked to resign immediately, which she duly did. This caused an outcry among the branches and a special conference was called in February 1934. A resolution was passed at the conference affirming confidence in her loyalty and professional capacity, and Pattrick agreed to remain in the service for six months to train her successor, Nora FitzGibbon. She retired in September 1934, overwhelmed by parting gifts and tributes from around the world.

The following year Anne Pattrick was invited to confer with infant welfare authorities in Canada. She also visited New York, and attended the congress of the International Council of Nurses in London in July 1937. She never married and spent the last months of her life at Cromwell House, until her death in London on 19 September 1937.

The name Plunket Society is often regarded as synonymous with that of Truby King, but much of its success can be attributed to the work of Anne Pattrick, its first director of nursing. After her death a memorial fund was established, supported by donations from around the world, and a library for nurses specialising in infant health was opened in Dunedin in 1941. She was also commemorated by a stained-glass window in the Christchurch Hospital chapel. Anne Pattrick had made a lasting contribution to the development of Plunket nursing and infant welfare in New Zealand and to Truby King mothercraft training overseas.

Links and sources


    Hooper, K. C. E. Anne Pattrick. Dunedin, 1958

    Obit. New Zealand Nursing Journal 30, No 6 (Nov. 1937): 248--249

    Sargison, P. A. Notable women in New Zealand health. Auckland, 1993

How to cite this page:

Linda Bryder. 'Pattrick, Anne', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 July 2024)