In December 2015, ABC Online had an article about a precious collection of photographs that a woman discovered while cleaning out her deceased aunt’s home. The home belonged to Annie Woods, who had been a mothercraft nurse in the 1960s, working in a number of children’s institutions in Victoria, including the Methodist Babies’ Home in South Yarra and the Alexandra Babies’ Home in Ballarat.
Mothercraft nursing was described in 1949 in The Argus newspaper as a career ‘only for girls who are genuinely fond of children and interested in caring for them’. Many children’s institutions (particularly babies’ homes) were approved training schools for a mothercraft qualification. It would seem that taking photos of the babies and children was a common pastime for women who trained and worked as mothercraft nurses in children’s Homes. In recent years, many former mothercraft nurses have realised the value of these photographs in their custody – for some people who grew up in orphanages, these albums contain the only baby or toddler photos ever taken of them.
We have written about the importance of photos before in this blog. Following a post on this topic in June 2015, Jenny Glare from the Heritage and Information Service at MacKillop Family Services got in touch to talk about mothercraft nurse photographs in MacKillop’s collection. She wrote:
Mothercraft Nurses are a wonderful source of photographs. The St Joseph Babies’ Home at Broadmeadows operated from 1901-1975 (the mothercraft nurse training school operated from 1931 to 1975). During this time, hundreds of women completed their training, some staying on to work at the Home and some becoming Sisters of St Joseph. Many of the nurses took photos of the babies and toddlers they cared for. In 2007, the Heritage and Information Service of MacKillop Family Services undertook a very special project with former mothercraft nurses where they were asked to add their photographs to our historical records collection. These photos have now be indexed and digitised and are made available to people. For many people who grew up in Homes or separated from their family, this will be the first time they see a baby or toddler photo of themselves. But more than this, in many instances the person has been able to meet or make contact with the nurse (where she is still living) who looked after them.
Every time I hear stories like that of Annie’s photographs, I wonder what else is ‘out there’. We are always making discoveries about new historical records, held by care provider organisations, or in private hands. The Find & Connect web resource exists to help make known the existence of this distributed collection of records, so that people can get access to precious and significant information.
On the topic of photographs, a number of images have recently been added, relating to Homes in South Australia, including the Oodnadatta Children’s Home, Glandore Boys’ Home, Klemzig Family Home, and McNally Training Centre.