Guide to the Papers of Dame Jean Macnamara


MS 2399

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Macnamara, Jean, Dame, 1899-1968
Papers of Dame Jean Macnamara
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 2399
6.9 metres (38 boxes + folio items)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The collection comprises letters and personal documents, photographs, financial papers, newspaper cuttings, notebooks, files of patients and printed material. They document Macnamara's medical career between 1923 and 1968 and relate particularly to her work at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, her studies under a Rockefeller Fellowship between 1931-33, and her research into poliomyelitis and myxomatosis.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is available for research, except for Series 8 which is closed.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Dame Jean Macnamara, National Library of Australia, MS 2399, [series number, item number]'.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated to the Library by Mrs Joan Giles and Mrs Merran Samuel, the daughters of Dame Jean Macnamara, in 1969. Further papers were received from Mr G. Douglas, Chairman of the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Board of Victoria, in 1970 and 1973.


The papers have been arranged into 15 series

Biographical Note

Annie Jean Macnamara was born on 1 April 1899 at Beechworth, Victoria, and was educated at Beechworth State School and later at the Presbyterian Ladies' College, Melbourne. She graduated from the University of Melbourne as a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1922 and as a Doctor of Medicine in 1924. She then worked at the Royal Melbourne Hospital where she specialized in research into the treatment of poliomyelitis. To further this research, she was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Travelling Fellowship from 1931 to 1933, and studied developments in the United States, Canada and England.

Macnamara returned to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne in 1934 and also worked part-time at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. She established a surgery in Spring Street, a clinic at Carlton and also conducted country clinics. She recommended the first centre for spastic children, which opened at the Children's Hospital in 1940. She was recognised as a world authority on infantile paralysis.

In the 1933, when she was in America, she came to the view that myxomatosis could be used to eradicate rabbits in Australia. Field trials between 1937 and 1944 were unsuccessful, but in 1949 she argued for a resumption of experiments. This time the virus became epizootic and the Australian Government agreed to the introduction of myxomatosis to destroy the rabbit pest.

In 1935 Jean Macnamara was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire and in 1966 became the first woman to be awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws at Melbourne University.

On 19 November 1934 Macnamara married Joseph Ivan Connor, a leading dermatologist, and they acquired a home in South Yarra. They had two daughters. She died in Melbourne on 13 October 1968.

Biographical Reference(s)

Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 10, pp345-47

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Correspondence, 1923-1968

The personal correspondence to and from Jean Macnamara has been arranged chronologically. There are many letters from Jean to her family while she was travelling in the United States, Britain and French under a Rockefeller Fellowship between 1931 and 1933.

Items 1-523

Series 2. Personal papers, 1915-1962

This series includes souvenir programmes, a passport, testimonials, drafts for speeches and a copy of a report made to the Rockefeller Institute in 1933 on her activities while holding the Fellowship.

Items 1-36

Series 3. Papers concerning myxomatosis, 1933-1967

The series contains letters written between 1933 and 1967. Correspondents include Richard Shope of the Rockefeller Institute, Henrique de Beawrepoise Aragao, who did early experimental work on myxomatosis, Alf Lawrence (a New South Wales inventor of rabbit traps), R.G. Casey (Minister in Charge of the C.S.I.R.O. in 1952), Ian Clunies Ross and Francis Ratcliffe (C.S.I.R.O.).

The subjects include the introduction of the fibroma virus, differences between French and Brazilian strains of myxomatosis, and the effect of its spread in Australia in the 1950s. Items 63 is a file of newspaper cuttings on myxomatosis, covering period 1936 to 1955.

Items 1-63

Series 4. Newspaper cuttings, 1933-1964

The cuttings mostly relate to Jean Macnamara's activities whilst holding the Rockefeller Fellowship in 1931-1933, and to the controversy over Sister Kenny's treatment of infantile paralysis in the late 1930s. There are also many cuttings containing biographical information about Macnamara.

Items 1-3

Series 5. Pictorial material

The series contains cards, drawings, personal photographs, photograhs of places, a few pamphlets and some musical scores

Items 1-257

Series 6. Financial papers, 1931-1956

Among the papers are the household accounts of Jean Macnamara, and the accounts of the A.M. Whiting Memorial Trust, of which Macnamara was secretary. There are also letters from applicants seeking grants from the Trust which was founded in 1930 to provide assistance to poliomyelitis victims.

7 folders

Series 7. Notebooks, 1925-1966

This series contains Jean Macnamara's address books, notes concerning medical matters and treatment of patients

Items 1-55

Series 8. Files on patients (CLOSED)

9 boxes

Series 9. Poliomyelitis survey, 1932-1933

In February 1933 Macnamara, when working at the Rockefeller Institute, sent a questionnaire to doctors throughout the world seeking information about the incidence of poliomyelitis. The replies have been placed in this series.

Items 1-96

Series 10. Objects relating to poliomyelitis

The series consists of objects and cardboard diagrams and pictures used in the treatment of poliomyelitis. There are also blocks used for printing diagrams, some microfilm and a roll of 8mm. film.

Items 1-17

Series 11. Notes for articles

The handwritten and typed research notes, which formed the basis of many of Macnamara's articles and papers, are found in this series

Series 12. Reprints from medical journals

The reprints from medical articles, are arranged alphabetically by author. The papers relate mainly to poliomyelitis and myxomatosis, the former being published in the 1930's. A list of authors is included in Appendix 1. Items 1142 to 1276 are articles by Macnamara.

Items 1-1276

Series 13. Serials, 1916-1962

A collection of single issues of medical journals and annual reports of medical organizations make up this series. They are arranged alphabetically by title of the serial, and a list of titles is included in Bibliography 1. Items number 204 is a bibliography of journals compiled by Macnamara.

Items 1-204

Series 14. Miscellaneous publications

Pamplets, lists of pharmaceutical benefits for the Commonwealth of Australia and prescriber's journals.

Items 1-32

Series 15. Monographs, 1879-1960

This series contains a collection of books, mainly on medical subjects, relating to the treatment of poliomyelitis. The books are arranged alphabetically by author. A list of titles is included in Bibliography 2.

Items 1-52