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Herstory – Dr Anne Myers née Anne Theresa Amy Phillips

Dr Anne T Myers - Herstory

Meet Dr Anne Myers née Anne Theresa Amy Phillips

I had the privilege of interviewing Dr Anne Myers aged 97, recently for Herstory. A sexual & reproductive health advocate and family planning physician when women still died of septic abortions. Mother of 4. We stand on the shoulders of such women.


Dr Anne T. Myers’ Story

Name: Dr Anne Myers née Anne Theresa Amy Phillips

Origin: Born 25-11-1925 in Hampstead, London, England

University training: London University – London School of Medicine for Women (90 women in each year)

Year of graduation: 1952

State membership: Victoria

AFMW involvement: Joined VMWS in 1980’s

Speciality Area: Sexual & reproductive health advocate and family planning physician


My Journey


I am the only child of two doctors and attended a boarding school in the west of England in the Cotswolds. In my era education for girls was not considered as important as for boys; however my parents were particularly determined that I should receive a good education.

My maternal grandmother lavished attention on her eldest and only son. She sent her five girls down the road to the local Catholic school, although she was a Protestant, thinking it would give them good manners and that education was not important for them. My mother won the prize for all the schools of the order to which the convent belonged. After school she did a BA and then thinking she might not marry, as all her sisters were married, she decided to be a doctor. It was very hard for her as there was no science taught at the convent.

My mother enrolled in University College Hospital Medical School. There were six women in each year. On finishing and graduating she married my Father. They had a long engagement as she wanted to qualify and he after graduating from Middlesex Hospital Medical School, was offered internships there and later Registrar positions in gynaecology and obstetrics and eventually honorary consultant positions in London hospitals – all this was unpaid. So he went into private practice and put off marriage until he had a nest egg of savings. My mother always regretted never doing any internships and drilled that into me. She said that if I worked a 9 to 5 job for the government that would fit better with married life. We both expected that I would marry. She worked for the government herself doing mother and baby (infant welfare) clinics.

During the Second World War my parents evacuated me to Canada. I went with the wife of a local General Practitioner, friends of ours. I did not want to go. My father who had patients whose husbands were high up in government and the armed forces, told him that Hitler was just across the Channel and was going to invade us, and we had only a few tanks and planes left. When my mother told him that I did not want to go he said tell her all that I have told you and say that she is just the right age to be put in a brothel, so I said I would go to Canada, I stayed 3 years with a lovely family, from the age of 14 to 17, friends of my family, in the holidays in Montreal. I attended a boarding school in Toronto in term time.

Entering university in England in those days was a very different matter. There was a requirement for a matriculation pass and I had a letter from the Head of Senior School in Toronto Canada to say that my results were sufficiently good for me to enrol in Toronto University Medical School. Also various letters of recommendation re your character were essential. These were usually from your Headmistress or local doctor or Member of Parliament, if you knew him. I then applied to the London School of Medicine for Women. They enrolled 90 women every year. The only other Medical Schools in London that took women were Kings College and University College Hospital (UCH). Both took only 6 each year. We were all interviewed by the Bursar and the Dean. The latter was a Miss Bolton, she always wore a tweed suit and sensible flat brogue shoes.

I loved England and my life there; however my long term boyfriend, who was with me while I was studying medicine, expected me to marry him as soon as I graduated. I of course was determined to do at least 2 years of internships and then take the 2 diploma exams in Child Health (DCH) and diploma of gynaecology and obstetrics (DRCOG). These exams you can take 2 years after graduation and a six month internship in each discipline. So sadly we broke up. He married within 6 months and started a family. He was a surveyor. He did not understand the medical world. It was the price women in medicine paid.

I took the DCH and DRCOG and then became a paediatric registrar at the West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth. Next I was a neonatal registrar at Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Hospital in Hammersmith. Here I did exchange transfusions on the neonates who developed jaundice due to Rhesus incompatibility. I also splinted the neonates with early signs of dislocation of the hip. Subsequently I attended the baby orthopaedic clinic at the Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, to follow up on their progress, having referred them there after they went home with their mothers.

As a result of my attending the orthopaedic outpatient clinic I was invited to their topical show, which I believe has the equivalent in Australia called “Med Melodies”. Topicals were very popular then. The nurses and interns would do a skit with some exaggerating of the consultant doctors behaviour. Interestingly the consultants were not at all embarrassed or insulted, in fact they were upset if not included in the show. They would feel not important or eccentric enough to be interesting. English people like eccentrics and most fitted into that description. After the show there was a party in the Residents’ sitting room and that was when I met my future husband.

He was Australian and had trained as a Paediatric Surgeon in Melbourne. Then all those aspiring to be Consultants went over to England and took the FRCS, although they already had the FRACS. He wanted to work at The Hospital for Sick Children at Great Ormond Street, with its worldwide reputation. He applied for a registrar position, missed out and immediately put in for the intern position and was successful and delighted. Later he was able to acquire the registrar position.

My mother was very disappointed when we became engaged, although she never said so, as I had decided to go with him to Melbourne. If we had stayed in England, he would have had to go into general practice and abandon his training and dreams. At that time in England there would be sixty applicants for each consultant paediatric surgical position, and these went to the locals. The colonials were expected to go home. He had already been appointed to the Royal Children’s Hospital, RCH, at that time was the best Paediatric Hospital in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere. I felt making him stay in England and be a G.P. would be a bad start to our marriage.


Moving to Australia was something I never planned or wanted to do. However I determined to apply myself to it. We came out on a cargo ship. He was a ship’s doctor. There were also 10 paying passengers. We ate with the officers and crew, seated with the officers.

On the way out we first stopped at the Canary Islands. Despite my imploring my husband not to drink the coffee offered him while I inspected and bought their beautiful linen, he did. So he and a third of the crew all went down with severe gastroenteritis. The Captain then asked me to take over the medical clinic. After a few days the Captain complained to me that morning clinic and rounds were lasting too long and was my husband nearly better? Implying that too many of the crew were seeking my services, keen to see the young lady doctor.

Melbourne was a terrible shock to a Londoner in 1957. It was a good thing I was in love, or I might have gone straight back home.

After registering I applied to the Department of Health and managed to get a job doing kindergarten examinations. The role involved filling out detailed forms and with carrying out physical examinations and assessing the children’s progress. A half day honorary appointment at The Queen Victoria Hospital in the paediatric outpatient’s clinic was part of my job and looked upon as the plum part.

Unlike nowadays when couples often wait too long before starting a family, then most people had families earlier and at age 30 for a first pregnancy and delivery a woman was considered an elderly primagravida. I had four children. Jane was born in 1958, I had vomiting in her pregnancy. Next in 1960 our son John was born. During this pregnancy I had serious back ache. Then I had a miscarriage. Condoms or diaphragms were used as contraceptives then and if you were young and fertile and did not reapply spermicide then after two hours the method failed. This was how Carolyn was conceived and born in 1963. Our fourth child Richard was planned to keep her company, conceived on holiday and born in 1964. All my pregnancies and deliveries were unpleasant to say the least. What we women go through to have children!

Following the birth of my first child I could no longer work full time, but kept the honorary (unpaid) half a day a week with The Queen Victoria Hospital paediatric outpatients clinic until well after my fourth child was born, when my employment was terminated. No reason was given; however I found out via friends that the paediatrician in charge of the clinic thought I took too much time off having babies. She did not know I was not having any more. The oral contraceptive pill had arrived.

I eventually managed to get back into the Queen Vic in the (ANC) antenatal clinic, honorary (unpaid) and eventually in the family planning clinic, which worked pretty much under the radar initially.

Dr June Howqua, at The Queen Victoria Hospital organised a refresher course for “women returning to medicine.” We were not returning at all, most of us had been forced out, but we wanted to “refresh” which was the means of us getting back in. This is when I met and made a long term friend, also doing the course. When we finished we were guaranteed six months paid employment at the Queen Vic. I started in the ante natal clinic (ANC), when the six months were up I stayed on under Dr Ruth Walker and her brother, a lovely couple. Dr Olga Bolitho was another very nice doctor there.

Family Planning Clinics were started by the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, employing female doctors to satisfy a real need, which had been supressed by fear of the Roman Catholic Church. Eventually the hospitals were shamed into action and the Brotherhood ceased clinics. First The Queen Vic started a clinic and I started there honorary as usual. Later the Royal Women’s Hospital (RWH) started a clinic under Dr Gytha Betheras, honorary too and I started there. Eventually the Health Department and local governments decided to start family planning clinics and asked Dr Gytha Betheras to recommend a female doctor for them. At last permanent paid employment! I remember hoping for Prahran, nearer home, but I was offered Sunshine and accepted it.

Meanwhile our marriage was going downhill. We divorced amicably. Then I had to break it to my children. The eldest was 16 and the youngest 11 years old. He continued to see the children and eventually remarried. I never met anyone I wanted to marry. Part of it of course was due to having four children and to my work.

Wanting more work I applied to the Health Department. I was told that the Communicable Diseases Clinic (VD Clinic) wanted a female doctor. At first I said no. I had referred a patient there from my Sunshine Family Planning Clinic. Only for her to come back to me in floods of tears, and to tell me the lady doctor there had read her a lecture on the vicissitude of her ways! Poor girl, there was nothing the matter with her ways. She thought she was engaged. The problem was his ways. The lady doctor had retired I was told so I applied. Six months later I was phoned to start next week. That was the beginning of sixteen years half time interesting and enjoyable work.

This was not looked upon as a plum job but I settled into it and eventually loved it. Dr David Bradford took over the clinic in the early 80’s and started to modernise it. This was the beginning of better equipment, pathology and clinical staff. In the 90’s we moved from Little Lonsdale Street in the city to Carlton where we had bigger and better premises. Unfortunately later on my sessions were reduced from five to three. I was then past my mid-sixties and retirement age, so could not complain.

Seeing “the writing on the wall” I managed to get a couple of sessions at the Sandringham Family Planning Clinic. Then Geoff Kennett altered the local council boundaries and our clinic fell into Oakleigh Council and they did not want us. Fortunately Central Bayside did and we moved to Mentone for some years. When the old Mordialloc Base Hospital was closed, eventually we moved in, in Parkdale. At last I was in at the beginning and asked what my requirements were. I said I would like two rooms, one for me and one for nurse, adjacent with a door between, a good couch and a good light. So far from what we had put up with at Mentone.

I worked two sessions a week at Parkdale until I was 86. I retired then after contracting pneumonia and gave my job to the friend who had alerted me to it originally. Now I am 97 and 11 months. I am still a member of the AMA and VMWS and read all their emails. I also watch Cabrini Hospital lectures for GP’s on zoom.


Mentors that made a difference

My parents influenced me entirely. They came over to Australia three times. I started going back to visit rarely at first, but yearly when the children were adults.

There were people whom I liked and respected. One was an obstetrician and gynaecologist (in London, when I was a student), who gave us tutorials and taught us about the challenges in life. We naïve girls learned about the promising student who unexpectedly fell pregnant, and whom she advised to put on large floppy clothes, with padding underneath, so that people thought she was overweight. She then arranged for her friend and colleague in the country to employ her and manage her pregnancy and delivery. Subsequently the girl returned to London to pursue her career. We heard all sorts of tales from back then and they were similar to what we met after graduating. In England then the public hospitals and their medical schools were in the slums, which was where the work was. Unplanned pregnancies and septic abortions were common.


Things  I Learnt / My Pearls of Wisdom for Others

Be kind and thoughtful.

You have to have an idea of what branch of medicine you want to enter. For most roles you have to like people and listening to their history. If you find that you do not really like people, all is not lost, you can specialise in pathology or radiology.

Good history taking is essential. Then, 1940’s and 1950’s in England, we were told to listen to the patient while he or she gives their history, look at them and write your notes later. Now doctors are looking at their computer and not their patients.

Having a career and children is very difficult if you are ambitious for your career. I soon found this. Just getting work was the problem, so I have had a varied course of work, never full time after my first child was born. Three quarter time was my best effort.

Pay attention to the people you work with. You do not really know what is going on in their lives. Take time to get to know them, have a chat.

Have a sense of humour. I got that from my mother. The whole family on her side had this quality.

I feel most fortunate that I have had a gratifying series of jobs, if not a career and a loving family.

On a lighter note, I also still go to the ballet, opera and drama shows when I can find someone to come with me and drive us. When you stop driving you lose independence. However I am fortunate that my family are very supportive.

Anne T. Myers



Thank you Dr Anne Myers.


Magdalena Simonis
President, Australian Federation of Medical Women


An online E book of AFMW members and their mentors

About ‘Herstory’

The online AFMW Herstory E-Book, gives AFMW members the opportunity to contribute to the AFMW oral tapestry, by forming a compilation of  ‘our mentoring stories’, in which we  honour those who have changed our lives. Making this an online AFMW story book, encourages us each to consider contributing to building this over the years, into a collection of medical women’s key take home messages’, as we share the wisdom we each have gained from our own lived experiences.  The ‘golden nugget of wisdom’ that we would share with someone who asked us about what we have learned.

Add Your Story

If you would like to contribute your story, please download the Herstory template (Word doc), add your details and return the completed form to [email protected]. Please also submit a photo of yourself with this. It can be a ‘selfie’ taken with a good camera that you would be happy to have others see.


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