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Biographical entry Kenny, Elizabeth (1880 - 1952)

20 September 1880
Warialda, New South Wales, Australia
30 November 1952
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
Nurse and Health administrator


Elizabeth Kenny developed a new treatment for poliomyelitis during the 1930s and established clinics in Brisbane with the backing of the State government but opposition from the medical profession. In 1940 she moved to the USA where her methods were widely acclaimed.



1910 - 1915
Career position - Self-appointed Nurse working from the family home in the Darling Downs area of Queensland
1915 - 1917
Career position - Staff Nurse with the Australian Army Nursing Service, serving on troopships bringing wounded home to Australia
1917 - 1919
Career position - Sister in the Australian Army Nursing Service
1919 - 1932
Career position - Returned to her home nursing practice
Career position - Established a backyard clinic in Townsville to treat long-term poliomyelitis victims and cerebral palsy patients
Career position - Travelled to the USA with an introduction to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota
Career position - The Sister Kenny Institute was established in Minneapolis, USA
Life event - Retired to Toowoomba, Queensland

Archival resources

Fryer Library and Department of Special Collections, University of Queensland

  • Elizabeth Kenny - Records, 1930 - 1952; Fryer Library and Department of Special Collections, University of Queensland. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Cohn, Victor, Sister Kenny: the woman who challenged the doctors, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1975, 302 pp. Details
  • Highley, Kerry, Dancing in my dreams: confronting the spectre of polio, Monash University Publishing, Clayton, Vic., 2016, 262 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Mackie, Sue, 'Elizabeth Kenny (1880-1952) nurse', in Heather Radi (ed.), 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Women's Redress Press Inc, Sydney, 1988. Details
  • Patrick, Ross, 'Kenny, Elizabeth (1880-1952), nurse', in Bede Nairn and Geoffrey Serle (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 9, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1983, pp. 570-571. Also available at Details
  • Rogers, Naomi, 'What is scientific evidence? Sister Kenny, American doctors and polio therapy, 1940 - 1952', in Atkins, Susanne, Kirkby, Kenneth, Thomson, Philip and Pearn, John (eds), "Outpost medicine": Australasian studies on the history of medicine: Third National Conference of the Australian Society of the History of Medicine, Hobart, February 1993, University of Tasmania and the Australian Society of the History of Medicine, Hobart, 1994, pp. 245-55. Details
  • Rogers, Naomi, 'Elizabeth Kenny, 1880-1952', in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2004. Details

Edited Books

  • Radi, H. (ed.), 200 Australian Women: a Redress Anthology, Women's Redress Press Inc, Sydney, 1988, 268 pp. Details

Journal Articles

  • Wilson, J., 'Sister Elizabeth's trial by Royal Commission', History of Nursing Society Journal, vol. 4, no. 2, 1992, pp. 91-9. Details

Online Resources

See also

  • Alexander, John A. (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 1944, vol. 12, The Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, Melbourne, 1944, 906 pp. Details

McCarthy, G.J.