Historical information

Cupping glasses were in use from the early 1700s onwards. Their purpose was to draw the nipple out from the areola in preparation for breast feeding. They were also used for expressing small quantities of breast milk. Other possible uses include drawing fluid from other parts of the body for conditions such as oedema of the limbs or abdomen.


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.

Physical description

Cupping glass, consisting of a glass tube connection and red rubber hand pump.