Eva Esther Day was born on 19 September 1898 at Pārāwai, near Thames, the daughter of Katherine Helen Gifford and her husband, Victor Grace Day, a solicitor. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Hokitika. They then went to Dunedin, Christchurch, and, in 1910, to Timaru, where Eva attended Timaru Girls’ High School. In 1916 she entered the University of Otago Medical School and when she graduated MB, ChB in 1921 she was one of the youngest to have qualified in New Zealand. After a brief period as an assistant medical officer at Timaru Hospital she took a position as house surgeon at Dunedin Hospital, where she remained for two years.
In 1924 Eva Day became the medical superintendent of Whangaroa General Hospital in the far north. There she met Justly Charles William Hill, a farmer 34 years her senior. The following year she set up general practice in Piopio, Waikato. On 28 December 1927 Eva Day married Justly Hill in Kaitāia, and afterwards lived at Piopio. They were to have two children.
During the depression Eva Hill was appointed a medical officer. She made weekly return trips to Wairoa and Gisborne, visiting construction camps along the way; her work, in difficult conditions, was highly regarded. In 1934 the Hills moved to the Bay of Islands. Early in 1944, worried about her husband’s health, Eva shifted to Auckland and set up practice in Dominion Road, Mount Eden. They lived on a four-acre block in Māngere, where Justly died in June that year.
A move to Ruakaka near Whāngārei in 1952 resulted in Eva’s first foray into politics: she stood as the New Zealand Social Credit Political League candidate for Marsden in the 1954 election. Unsuccessful at the polls, she turned to writing in support of social credit with There are worse ills than death! (1955), and for the campaign against fluoridation with Facts about fluoridation of water supplies (1955). These were followed by the publication of Light Behind the Headlines, a monthly newsletter on the anti-fluoridation issue and, later, on her growing interest in alternative treatments for cancer.
Fluoridation, Eva Hill argued, was ‘rat poison. It may harden tooth enamel but it softens brains’. Her campaign brought her into conflict with the New Zealand Branch of the British Medical Association, which reminded her that doctors were not allowed to speak in public without its permission. Hill, knowing that she intended to address a meeting in Christchurch on fluoridation, resigned from the association, being, she said, ‘a bit particular in my associates!’
Hill’s interest in alternative remedies for cancer developed while she was waiting for radiation therapy for a basal cell carcinoma on her face. Sent information about the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic in Dallas, Texas, she determined to go there for treatment and to report on the work of the clinic. With sponsorship from social credit friends in Christchurch and others interested in the Hoxsey approach, Hill travelled to Dallas in April 1956. As both patient and observer she was impressed by what she saw. While there she appeared on television, and as a defence witness when a Hoxsey associate was successfully prosecuted by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
After her return to New Zealand in November 1956 Eva Hill, now cured, reported her findings to a public meeting in Christchurch on 20 February 1957. The next day she found herself charged under Section 13 of the Medical Advertisements Regulations 1943 with making false statements. Although convicted, Hill won on appeal, as the court found that she had acted honestly and was sincere in her belief that the treatment worked. The success of the appeal led people to believe that Hill’s methods were acceptable and her practice prospered. Patients sought remedies that were less invasive and over which they had more control than those offered by her orthodox colleagues.
Eva Hill adopted a holistic approach when treating her patients. She advocated people eat only ‘live’ food consisting of 75 per cent fruit and vegetables, of which at least 50 per cent must be raw. All food had to be free from additives and chemicals and eaten ‘as God made it – not as man mucks it up’. Animal proteins, cereals and refined sugar had to be avoided or taken in moderation. A poor diet, she argued, or depleted or poisoned soil was more likely to cause skin cancer than exposure to the sun.
Hill’s later years were spent in Hamilton and Te Awamutu, where she continued practising medicine and advocating her views to all who would listen. She opposed the relaxing of the immigration policy on Chinese, homosexual law reform, and modern fashions, which she said were the cause of ‘peculiar diseases’.
Eva Hill’s publications A simple guide to better health (1975) and Why be scared of cancer (1979) included reasons for her beliefs, dietary advice and numerous successful case histories. Although often scathing in her criticism of her colleagues, she was a caring person who always believed she was acting in the best interests of her patients. Eva Hill died in Te Awamutu on 17 April 1981, survived by her two sons.