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Sister Elizabeth Kenny

I have a friend who once fell off a horse and it changed her life. She recently asked me if the Sister Elizabeth Kenny monument on the corner of Victoria and Herries Street near Milne Bay Aquatic Centre was included in my tours. This morning while taking my daughter to her swimming lesson, I took the opportunity to take this photo of the monument and I thought Sister Kenny was a good topic for my blog.

Sister Kenny was known as the big lady who wore big hats and had no issue with giving a doctor a dressing down if he disagreed with her methods.

Early Years.

Born in 1880, Elizabeth Kenny, suffered a broken wrist after falling off a horse when she was 17. She convalesced under the care of Dr Aeneas McDonnell in Toowoomba and became interested in the medical profession. She moved to Guyra when she was 18 and followed her passion for nursing and possibly received some nursing experience.

Her Professional Life.

In 1911 Kenny opened St. Canice's, a cottage hospital in Clifton, providing convalescence and midwifery services and treated her first confirmed cases of polio under the supervision of the local Doctor.

In 1915, Kenny volunteered to serve as a nurse in World War I, working on transports returning wounded soldiers to Australia and earned the title "Sister". She returned to Nobby in 1919 and later moved back to Guyra to care for a friend’s daughter with cerebral palsy.

In 1929 she went to Townsville to nurse a child disabled by polio who made a remarkable recovery. In 1932, Queensland suffered its highest number of polio cases in 30 years. Sister Kenny set up a polio-treatment facility at the Queens Hotel in Townsville.

Sister Elizabeth Kenny went on to establishment clinics in several cities in Australia, England and America.

She returned home to Toowoomba in 1951 and died in 1952. She is buried beside her mother in the Nobby Cemetery.


Kenny's methods created controversy and doctors questioned her methodology leading to her work being assessed by the Queensland Health Department. However, through her doggedness and determination her methods of removing braces and applying heat and gentle exercise became the widely accepted treatment for polio.

Her work is considered the beginnings of physiotherapy.

She patented the 'Sylvia' ambulance stretcher designed to reduce shock when transporting injured patients.


Infantile Paralysis and Cerebral Diplegia,1937.

And They Shall Walk, written in collaboration with Martha Ostenso, 1943.

My Battle and Victory, posthumously in 1955.

Other Testimonies to Her Work

A bust by L. Randolph displayed in the Toowoomba City Art Gallery.

1946 film, Sister Kenny.

British War Medal for her services in the first World War.

The Minneapolis Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute.

Sister Kenny House, Tooth Street, Nobby.

Biography - Elizabeth Kenny - Australian Dictionary of Biography; Adb.anu.edu.au; http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kenny-elizabeth-6934; 2006.

Elizabeth Kenny; En.wikipedia.org; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Kenny; This page was last edited on 16 May 2018.

What’s on this weekend in Toowoomba.

The Relay for Life kicks off at 2pm tomorrow in Queens park.

This Sunday the Hampton Festival is on for the foodies amongst us. There will be plenty of cooking demonstrations, local produce and wine to taste.