Mental Diseases Hospital, New Norfolk – Women’s Division 1918.

Looking for  G Aunt Edie and  GG Aunt Mary Esther.

Another trip to the Hobart History Room mid 2014 to view the 1918 ward reports located on-line.

1918 significant as the only surviving ward book across the time frame the girls were there together – 1904 – 1922.

The ward book was typical for the era, enormous, heavy and well-bound for the system and purpose it served. Strangely it started in Jan and finished in Sept 1918.

January 1918 – first task, work out the acronyms associated with each ward. At the end of every night shift the charge nurse entered a brief report and head count (daily return of numbers) for the four wards.

For example on 5th May ……. LB 39 – R 63 – T 103 – MB 77…. Total 279 and 3 boys.

MB = Main Building  LB = Lodge. T ward housed the epilepsy patients based on names and number of fits recorded for each patient.

R ward recorded the drama’s of the 63 patients including the number of garments and windows destroyed on shift. At the end of each page the names/number of patients out of the hospital on excursions or attending church/concerts in the hospital also recorded. All names of those with visitors also recorded.

Jan to March, no entries of either girls evident. Only those patients acting out of the ‘ordinary’ were recorded. On my way out for a break from the reading, I commented to the historian I hadn’t seen their names, so with tongue in cheek commented that ‘my girls were going to have to play up’ for me to see them.

On returning from the break, April – nothing. Time was running out so a quick flick through to May and there they were, both names on the same page a line apart with E. Holt just above ME Stephens. Quite obvious!! Edie on T ward and Mary Esther MB ward. Edie had been physically unwell and Mary Esther with sleep disturbance and restlessness.

At least they weren’t on R ward, where the notes suggest frequent bouts of aggression, excitability, ‘noise’, frequent destroying of garments and windows, as the norm.

It turns out Edie only appeared 3 times in the book. Mary Esther appears often from May through to September due to her cycle of sleep disturbance and restlessness.

By June, Mary Esther had been relocated to T ward until the end of the reporting in September, the same ward as Edie, so here they were together, I wonder if they were aware of their mothers being good friends and neighbours………

Monthly individual records were also kept for every patient. A regular report (more like a useless note) was entered each month. The notes usually one liners and basically the same. ‘no mental improvement‘ or ‘the same‘. Still the effort was made.

Occasionally a different entry is noted, such as

5 June 1892….. Mary Esther: ‘is now in the new building’ 7 Sept 1892 ‘she continues to be quiet harmless and useful’ 22 Feb 1894 ‘continues to be industrious’ 27 Oct ‘continues to make herself industrious in the Ladies Cottage’.

19 Sept 1908…. Edie: ‘she is at times very noisy and excitable …….a person of acute mental excitement – 5 Nov ‘no mental improvement is quieter at present

Bless you both.

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