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Biographical entry Cilento, Lady Phyllis Dorothy (1894 - 1987)

13 March 1894
Rockdale, New South Wales, Australia
26 July 1987
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Author, Educator, Journalist, Medical practitioner and Obstetrician
Alternative Names
  • Medical Mother (Pseudonym)
  • Mother M.D. (Pseudonym)


Phyllis Cilento was a medical practitioner specialising in obstetrics with a passion for educating the public. Through her books and regular columns she became a household name and a leading voice in nutrition and childcare.


In 1931 Cilento established the Mothercraft Association of Queensland. She served as its president until 1946.

She also lectured in mothercraft between 1939-1946 and 1952-1962 at the University of Queensland.

Over her lifetime she published 24 books on family nutrition and childcare and wrote on the same issues in popular newspaper and magazine columns under the pseudonyms "Mother M.D."(1933-1950) and "Medical Mother" (1950 onwards).

Married to medical administrator Sir Raphael West Cilento, she ran her obstetrics clinic adjoined to their property for 36 years.


Career position - House surgeon, Adelaide Hospital
Education - Graduated with M.B. B.S. From University of Adelaide
1920 - 1921
Career position - Lady Medical Officer, British Colonial Service, Teluk Intan. Location: Malaysia
1922 - 1927
Career position - Worked in private practice, Rabaul, New Guinea
c. 1928 - 1933
Career event - Mothercraft columnist for the Brisbane Daily Mail as Mother M.D.
Career event - President, Queensland Medical Women's Society
Career event - Founded the Mothercraft Association of Queensland
1931 - 1946
Career event - President of the Mothercraft Association of Queensland
1933 - 1935
Career position - Physician to out-patients, the Hospital for Sick Children, Brisbane
1933 - 1984?
Career event - Mothercraft columnist for the Courier-Mail as Mother M.D. and then Medical Mother
1935 - 1938
Career position - Physician to inpatients, the Hospital for Sick Children, Brisbane
1939 - 1946
Career position - Specialist lecturer in mothercraft, University of Queensland
1952 - 1962
Career position - Recommenced duties as specialist lecturer in mothercraft, University of Queensland
Career event - Elected a fellow of the International Academy of Preventive Medicine
Career event - Elected a life member of the Australian Medical Association
Award - Queenslander of the Year

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Cilento, Phyllis, My Life: Lady Cilento (Sydney: Methuen Haynes, 1987), 281 pp. Details
  • Hooker, Claire, Irresistible Forces: Australian Women in Science (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2004), 215 pp. Details

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Rebecca Rigby