Historical information

Mary Howlett (1840-1922) began practising as a country midwife in 1866 in the western district of Victoria. She qualified as a 'ladies monthly nurse' in 1887 and continued to practise as a nurse and midwife until 1920.She began her six months training at the Melbourne Lying-In Hospital. She was known by many as 'Auntie', and her career spanned more than 50 years. Mrs Howlett's midwifery box and contents were given to Dr Frank Forster, and he donated them to the museum collection in 1993.

The contents of this box are consistent with use by a midwife, but such a box would have been cumbersome and heavy to carry around. It is possible that Mary Howlett would also have had a bag for her midwifery requirements.


This midwifery box is highly significant as it includes close to the original contents of one midwife's 'professional kit' up to 1920. The contents reveal something of the professional practice of a midwife in country Victoria at that time.

Physical description

A wooden box with hinged lift-up lid, one drawer, and an inner wooden tray. Rests at each side inside box indicate another tray may have originally sat across the top. Pasted inside the lid is a product list from Robert McDonald (chemist and druggist). There are locks for both the main chest section and the drawer. A circular section is cut out of the bottom of the drawer. The contents of the box include, enema syringe, a red rubber douche, glass breast pump, nipple shields, a thermometer in travel case. Also includes cotton bandages, a tooth extractor, and fetal stethoscope.