Gweneth Wisewould Portrait Prize

Local artist, Rose Wilson, established the Gweneth Wisewould Portrait prize ($500) in the 2017 Trentham Easter Art & Craft Show. 

Rose has remained benefactor of this prize in order to support portraiture and to foster the memory of this remarkable woman who tended to the ill and injured local people in the Trentham district from 1938 until her death in 1972.

The story of Dr Gweneth Wisewould, below, is well worth a read!

Gweneth Wisewould (1884-1972) was born in Melbourne. Privately tutored at home, she graduated in medicine and surgery from the University of Melbourne in 1915

The first 21 years of her career included: residencies at the Melbourne, Alfred and Queen’s Memorial Infectious Diseases Hospitals; private practice at St Kilda, Elsternwick and in the city; a number of honorary posts; ear, nose and throat, and general surgery at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital for Women and Children; teaching anaesthetics at the Alfred Hospital

In 1938 she moved to Trentham where she worked as a doctor for 34 years until the day of her death at age 87. Her considerable surgical skills enabled her to deal with emergencies, whether she was obliged to operate in isolated cottages or in Trentham’s tiny hospital which she called her ‘home from home’.

Unconventional, artistic and mildly bohemian in outlook, Wisewould invariably wore an ancient greatcoat. She explained: ‘you cannot do this work looking pretty’.

She worked long hours and travelled tirelessly attending townspeople, foundry-workers, timber-getters, farmers, graziers and itinerant potato diggers.

In 1971 Wisewould published a minor medico-social classic,Outpost,an account of her life and work in the country. She wrote with compassion, sensitivity and humour of her patients. ‘Dirt never degraded here. Of class distinction there was none’, she claimed, praising the community’s strong work ethic. Her acute observation of social and environmental conditions and of local personalities, as well as her first-hand experience of the practical application of changing medical knowledge after World War II, gave the book enduring value as a social history of rural Victoria.

In 1968 she donated $20,000 to the University of Melbourne to provide ‘Truganini Scholarships’ for Aboriginal students.

She died on 20 January 1972 at Trentham and was buried, with Anglican rites, in the local cemetery, much mourned by the community she had served with ‘gritty dedication’ for so long.