Connect with The Womens College online:

Apply Now

Grace JOHNSTON, Dip Massage, MBBS

1930 & 1941 - 1946

Medical Practitioner

GraceJohnstonGRACE JOHNSTON was born in Sydney in 1906. Her father was Swedish, with Scottish connections and her mother was an Australian of English and Danish ancestry. As a child Grace learned to use tools in preference to playing with dolls, and so acquired skills which were to be of particular use in adult life. Her schooldays, spent partly at a Theosophist school, led to rebellion rather then academic achievement. She left at age fifteen without any formal qualifications. However, she had developed an interest in hockey and the Girl Guides, both of which were to prove a source of friendship and helpful contacts.

Grace spent two years on a mixed farm near Mittagong, tending animals and growing vegetables with equal success. It was here, while watching a veterinary surgeon at work that she conceived the desire to study medicine, but with no money, there was little prospect of achieving this ambition or, alternatively, of buying land to become a farmer. There followed a further year as jackeroo on a sheep station at Gunning, a job so unusual for a woman in 1927, that, when Grace returned to Sydney, her story was featured in several newspapers.

Grace worked as a trainee masseuse and medical gymnast at the Bjelke-Petersen gymnasium in Sydney, and by studying at night with a tutor she succeeded in passing the entrance examination for Physiotherapy at Sydney University. By borrowing money from friends, publishing poems, articles and photographs, preparing anatomical drawings and by working as a games coach, she was able to pay for her course and to live in College for part of her last year as a Physiotherapist student. She successfully completed the course in Physiotherapy in 1930.

In 1941, aged thirty-five, Grace entered College, living throughout the entire period of her medical studies in the Maples. On graduation in 1946 Grace obtained an appointment at Goulburn Hospital. Later she had a practice in Manly, with an Honorary appointment in general surgery at the Rachel Forster Hospital. She was for a time a medical clinical assistant in Physiotherapy at the Royal North Shore.

For relaxation, she took up cine photography, winning several amateur awards. She also learnt to sail, and eventually purchased a small semi-derelict boat, which she restored and maintained herself. Upon her retirement, she reverted to a semi-rural life in Frenchs Forest, with goats and a dog as her daily companions.

Extracts from a ‘Biographical Note’ prepared by
Vere Hole (in College 1941-1944)

Back to Alumnae Stories

Visit us online