Bathsheba Ghost, Matron of the Sydney Infirmary 1852–66 : a Silenced Life

Judith Godden



Bathsheba Ghost was Matron of Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary (now Sydney Hospital) from 1852–66. She has been subsumed into the ‘before’ narrative of the bad old days at Sydney Hospital (and Australia) before rescue by the arrival from England of middle-class nurses trained under the auspices of the iconic Florence Nightingale. Matron Bathsheba Ghost was one of the few working-class women who rose to prominence, on her own merits, from a convict past. With her recognition also comes recognition of the major Sydney hospital when it was a pre-industrial style workplace not yet dominated by medical needs. It was an institution run by prominent male philanthropists whose rules were subverted and adapted by the staff, their families and the destitute, chronically ill who found a temporary home.

Judith Godden, Lucy Osburn, a Lady Displaced: Florence Nightingale’s Envoy to Australia (Sydney, NSW: Sydney University Press, 2006). ISBN 9781920898397 and 1 920898 39 5. x + 373 pp.

Lucy Osburn was born in 1836, the daughter of a Yorkshire wine and spirit merchant (bankrupted when she was six years old) and his wife, whose family was at the core of the Leeds medical establishment. In the late 1850s Lucy was employed as a ‘superior servant’ by a relative through marriage who was a medical missionary in Jerusalem. Her claim to have assisted with surgical patients—upon which her biographer casts doubts—was a factor in her acceptance in 1866 for nurse training at St Thomas’s Hospital under the auspices of Florence Nightingale and the hospital matron, Miss Wardroper; equally important was Osburn’s status as a financially independent ‘lady,’ courtesy of an inheritance from a great-aunt.


2 thoughts on “Bathsheba Ghost, Matron of the Sydney Infirmary 1852–66 : a Silenced Life”

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