Vera Scantlebury Brown was born in Linton, Victoria, in 1889, the daughter of George James and Catherine Scantlebury (nee Millington). Her father was a general practitioner with an interest in psychiatry. She was educated at Toorak College and the University of Melbourne Medical School from which she graduated Bachelor of Medicine (MB) in 1914. She worked as a resident at the Melbourne Hospital and Children's Hospital until 1917 when she went to England and served as assistant surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps, Endell Street Military Hospital. This was the only First World War hospital entirely staffed by women suffragists.
Back in Melbourne in 1919 she received honorary appointments at the leading women's and children's hospitals as well as the Victorian Baby Health Centres Association and the Free Kindergarten Union of Victoria. In 1924 she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine. In 1926 she became part-time director of the newly-created infant welfare section of the Victorian Health Department. Infant welfare advanced rapidly under her guidance where she pioneered compulsory training for infant welfare nurses and published influential guides to infant feeding and child care. She was equally pioneering in the areas of ante natal and pre-school care.
Dr. Vera married University of Melbourne lecturer (later associate professor) Dr. Edward Byam Brown on 18 September 1926, and they had two children.
When away from home, Vera wrote long diary-type letters regularly to family and friends using carbon copy letter books. Her main diary-letter books commenced during the period she spent working as an assistant-surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps in England during WW1. These diary-letter books are the main archival records within the collection and reveal Vera’s activities, attitudes and relationships with family and work colleagues throughout the years 1917 to 1939.
Deeply admired for both her professional abilities and her personal qualities, Vera S Brown was appointed O.B.E. in 1938. She died on 14 July 1946 after a long battle with cancer.
The Papers of Vera Scantlebury Brown can only be access by University of Melbourne Staff and Students.
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