Admirable women in Trove: shared by the Trove community (part one)

Stories of little-known women making big impacts

Throughout Women’s History Month, so many of you shared stories of women achieving impressive feats and doing amazing things. To recognise the achievements of these lesser-known women, many of whom are relatives to members of the Trove community, we wanted to give them the recognition they deserve. 


Let’s begin with some women who paved the way for future generations in the field of medicine. One such woman is Dr Rosamond Benham, a medical practitioner who’s 'large fund of wit and original ideas’ led to her success as a public speaker and writer on topics such as gender relations and social reform.  

Also known for her impact on medicine is Dr Phoebe Chapple, a doctor who served in England during World War II treating soldiers injured on the Western Front. In fact, she was ‘the first woman surgeon [at Cambridge Military Hospital] to achieve equal status officially with the other surgeons’. Following her service, Chapple was awarded a Military Medal for ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an air raid’. However, given her rank as a captain, she refused to accept the award given it was ‘expressly designed for N.C.Os. and privates’.

One of the biggest insights were the newspapers comments about my great Aunt Phoebe Chapple, an early female doctor. The type of people she treated, the little she earned, but making sure medical help was available in a time well before Medicare.

- Naomi, Trove community member

newspaper clipping about Dr Phoebe Chapple
SEX DISTINCTION, Daily Herald (Adelaide, SA: 1910 - 1924), January 3 1919,


Similarly, demonstrating women’s impact on various war efforts is the “amazing story” of Glen Morton and Hilary Benn. Despite just being in their early twenties, these young women worked as the only two cinematographers in the Australian armed forces during World War II. Through their films, they helped train countless pilots in the Royal Australian Air Force on attack manoeuvres and flying routes, making them icons both for their work in the creative field of cinematography and in the military.  

Another woman who should be recognised for her creative work is Rose Ellen Easton, an ancestor of a Trove community member. Easton’s poems and song lyrics were a frequent feature in newspapers in New South Wales and make for some wonderful reading.  

I found poetry and lyrics written by my distant cousin Rose Ellen Easton nee McKinlay in the late 1890s and early 1900s, and made a Trove list to share with family.

- Judy, Trove community member 

Newspaper clipping with photo of Hilary Benn and Glen Morton
Waafs "Shoot" Air Secrets, The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 - 1954), July 24 1943,  


Throughout history, many women are remembered for their work as activists for various causes. One female activist you may not have heard of is Edith Onians, who dedicated her life to the protection of children. In particular, Onians worked closely with the City Newsboy’s Society in Melbourne for around 40 years, leading one Trove community member to compare her to the Little Women character Jo March, who ran a school for orphaned young boys.  

When it comes to animal welfare activism, one unsung hero is Constance Horrocks, who founded the Dogs Refuge Home in Shenton. In fact, her journey to founding this shelter can be followed in Trove, from one letter to the editor where she called for assistance setting up a home for stray dogs to another where she invited contributions from the community in rehoming the 110 dogs in residence at the Dogs Refuge Home.

newspaper clipping about Miss Edith Onians with a photo of her
MY OUTLOOK ON LIFE, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), July 9 1936, 

Though this blog only scratches the surface of the history of great women that can be found in Trove, we want to thank everyone who shared their stories with us. We greatly enjoyed reading about the women who have inspired you and expanding our own knowledge of these stories. Read more stories in part two.

Just like our Trove Community, we love uncovering stories about women’s history. If you have a story about women’s history to share, follow us on Facebook and Twitter and let us know you story in the comments. You can also subscribe to our monthly Trove Treasures newsletter.