Meet Lilian Cooper And Josephine Bedford, Notable Women Who Once Lived In Kangaroo Point

josephine bedford
Josephine Bedford and Lilian Cooper c1900 (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library Queensland)

Did you know that the Old St Mary’s, the location of St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Kangaroo Point was once home to Lilian Cooper, QLD’s first female registered medical practitioner and Josephine Bedford, noted philantropist and family welfare advocate?

Read: ‘Harrow’: Popular Australian TV Show Highlights Kangaroo Point, Other Brisbane Locations

Dr Cooper and Ms Bedford were both born in England in 1861. Both women lived in Chatham, a town located in North Kent in Southeast England, before migrating to Brisbane.

In 1891, Dr Cooper and Ms Bedford arrived in Brisbane, where the former started her professional career shortly after completing her education at the London School of Medicine for Women.

St Mary’s rectory c1930 (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

After living in South Brisbane for a few years, the two bought the house adjacent to St Mary’s in 1926 where they spent the remaining years of their lives.

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Conquering Gender Bias in Medicine

Dr Lilian Cooper c1898 (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library Queensland)

At the time, being a female doctor came with many challenges. Dr Cooper had to stand up to preconceived notions from men of her profession and the innate mistrust on the part of the public generally as to a woman’s ability in the field of medicine and surgery.

She was appointed to the staff of the Children’s Hospital and the new Mater Misericordiae Hospital at South Brisbane, an association which was ongoing for the rest of her professional life.

She assisted Dr Booth at his practice prior to setting up her own at The Mansions on George Street. Back then, she would make house calls in her horse and sulky but she later managed to have her own vehicle.

Life As A Philanthropist

Meanwhile, her lifelong companion, Josephine Bedford or Miss Bedford, did not have professional ambitions but spent most of her life organising charitable work. 

Ms Bedford (Photo credit: John Oxley Library, State Library Queensland)

She was a councillor and representative at the inception of the National Council of Women in 1904, where they discussed important social issues and was an ideal platform for both women to pursue the social justice agenda in which they believed so passionately.

After the first world war, they returned to Brisbane in 1918, picking up where they left off. Ms Bedford became a Founder of the Creche and Kindergarten (C&K) Association and in 1920 she was elected to the National Council of Women.

On the other hand, Dr Cooper became a Foundation Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and Founder of the Queensland Medical Women’s Society.

Recognising the women’s outstanding service, each of them received an Order of St Sava from the King of Serbia.

Dr Cooper and Ms Bedford’s gravestones at Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane, 2008. (Photo credit: State Library of Queensland)

Dr Cooper died in her own home on 18 August 1947 and was buried in Toowong cemetery. Following her death, Ms Bedford offered their home to the Anglican Church.

Later on, the Catholic Sisters of Charity agreed to convert the house into a hospice for the aged and dying. It has evolved into the Mount Olivet Hospital, or the St Vincent’s Private Hospital as it is known today.