Crown Street Women's Hospital was established in Hay Street in 1893 and moved to Surry Hills in 1897. It was a public women's and maternity hospital. As well as being a general hospital, it cared for many unmarried mothers, including state wards and Aboriginal wards, and its staff arranged a high proportion of New South Wales adoptions. The Crown Street Women's Hospital was closed in 1983 and its facilities were transferred to hospitals in the outer suburbs of Sydney.
Founded by Dr James Graham in a four-roomed house in Hay Street in 1893, the Women's Hospital was funded by public subscription. A Board was formed in 1895 to ran the hospital, although the government provided equipment and furniture.
The Women's Hospital moved to Crown Street in Surry Hills in 1897, leasing the site from the Australian Red Cross until it passed to government control in 1963. From 1897 Crown Street was a teaching hospital of the University of Sydney and by 1943 it had become the largest maternity hospital in New South Wales.
Crown Street aimed to lift medical standards for maternity care. In addition to providing wards for surgical cases and complicated births the Hospital provided treatment in homes, fertility treatments and outpatients services. The slogan of the hospital was 'Crown Street never turns a patient away!'
Crown Street Women's Hospital cared for many unmarried mothers, including state wards and Aboriginal girls who were in the wardship of the Aborigines Protection and Welfare Boards. Crown Street Women's Hospital developed a major adoption service, arranging a high proportion of the state's adoptions.
According to State Records, the Hospital's Nurseries were divided into five categories - Main, D, Premature, Adoption, and Founders Isolation. The term 'adoption babies' was used for all babies awaiting adoption, foster care or other Child Welfare Department arrangement.
The Crown Street Women's Hospital was closed on 31 March 1983 and its facilities were transferred to hospitals in the outer suburbs of Sydney. The building was redeveloped as office space. Its records were sent to the Royal Hospital for Women and are now located at Prince of Wales Hospital.
In 2011 and 2012 Crown Street Women's Hospital was the subject of close attention in the Senate Inquiry into Forced Adoptions.
Sources used to compile this entry: 'Crown Street Women's Hospital Guide', in Museums of History NSW website, Museums of History NSW, https://mhnsw.au/guides/crown-street-womens-hospital-guide/; 'Hospitals Commission of New South Wales', in State Records Authority of New South Wales website, State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority of NSW 2016, https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/agency/3067; Jennifer Bowen, 'Tangled Web, Part I: the silence of consent', ABC Radio National Hindsight, 20 March 2011, http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2011/3164428.htm#transcript; Thinee, Kristy and Bradford, Tracy, Connecting Kin: Guide to Records, A guide to help people separated from their families search for their records [completed in 1998], New South Wales Department of Community Services, Sydney, New South Wales, 1998, https://clan.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/connectkin_guide.pdf; Thompson, Geoff and Hichens, Clay, 'Given or Taken?', ABC Four Corners, ABC Ultimo, 27 February 2012, https://web.archive.org/web/20211217091326/https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/given-or-taken/3860552; Wellfare, Dian, Breaches of Adoption Regulations, Laws and Crimes: Inhumane Hospital Practices, Origins Inc, 1995, http://lilyfair1.tripod.com/law/id16.html; Wellfare, Dian, NSW Parliamentary Inquiry Into Adoption Practices Personal Submission, Origins Inc, 1995, http://www.originsnsw.com/nswinquiry2/id14.html; Women's Hospital, Crown Street, State Records Authority of New South Wales website, State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority of NSW 2016. Also available at https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/agency/1219; Email correspondence with Prince of Wales Medical Records staff, 22 March 2012.
Prepared by: Naomi Parry
Created: 20 April 2011, Last modified: 10 March 2014