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metadata.territorywomen.dc.title: Isabella Jane Kell
Name: Kell, Isabella Jane
Also known as: Birkett, Isabella Jane
Rattray, Isabella Jane
Date of Death: 1926-08-08
Place of Birth: Liverpool (U.K.)
Date of Birth: 1852-04-01
Place of Death: Glenelg (S. Aust.)
Place of Burial: Wallaroo Cemetery (S. Aust.)
Cultural heritage: English
Occupation: Nurse
Biographical notes: Isabella Jane was born on 1 April 1852 to Ann and George Birkett in Liverpool, Lancashire, six years earlier than sister, Annie (later to become Annie Holtze). Isabella married William Rattray, a merchant mariner, on 19 August 1877. They married at sea on the Angola. Isabella was 25 and her husband 31 when they married. Isabella and William had a son, George Stanley Birkett Rattray, born 5 June 1878 in Liverpool. Isabella worked as a nurse at the Adelaide Hospital before she was transferred to Burra. Isabella arrived in Palmerston on 1 December 1888 to take over the position of Matron at the Palmerston Hospital from Jane Meissner. The hospital had no laundry, operating theatre or proper kitchen; all the while servicing 130 people a year. Matron Birkett had to seek permission from the Government Resident G L Parsons to employ a washerwoman in 1889. Her time at the hospital was not without controversy the Hospital Board was subject to an inquiry because a leper patient was nursed there and the Government Medical Officer had not been told. Known as the ‘Marcus Baker Case’, Isabella Birkett gave evidence. This case resulted in The Leprosy Ordinance of the Northern Territory. From nursing the leper patient the staff learned much about the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. After six years Matron Birkett was replace by Matron Freda Reinhardt who had arrived from Adelaide in February 1892. In 1893 Isabella’s son George and her sister Margaret arrived in Adelaide on 19 November 1893 on the ‘Gulf of Venice’ from Liverpool and later joined her in Palmerston. Isabella left her position as matron to marry Walter Kell at Palmerston on Monday 8 January 1894. The couple left for Burrundie the morning after the wedding, where Walter had been gazetted as the Post and Telegraph Master at the Burrundie Overland Telegraph Station. In 1895, when Isabella was 43, she was one of the 82 women who enrolled to vote after the franchise was granted to South Australian and Territory women in 1894. She registered at Burrundie and her occupation was listed as “married woman”. In 1896, Walter was Stationmaster at Powell’s Creek where he was also appointed Inspector of Stock from 1900. The couple was removed from the Powell’s Creek Roll on 20 December 1905 because they left the district for Wallaroo in South Australia. Walter died suddenly at home on 3 November 1919 aged 58. Isabella died at home in Wallaroo aged 74 in 1926. The couple are buried together in Wallaroo Cemetery.
Related link: "Family Notices", The Register, 9 August 1926, p.8.
"Obituary", Chronicle, 14 August 1926, p.19.
Carment, D. 1949-. Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography. Rev. ed. ed. Darwin: Charles Darwin University Press, 2008.
"Northern Territory Times", Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 3 Nov 1888: 2.
"Local Notes", North Australian, 12 Jan 1889: 2.
"Notes of the Week," Northern Territory Times and Gazette, 24 Nov 1893: 2.
Related Materials: James, Barbara. Occupation : Citizen. The Story of the Northern Territory Women and the Vote (1894 – 1896), Darwin : Barbara James, 1995. NTC 324.623 JAME
Appears in Collections:Territory Women

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