Historical information

The vaginal syringe, also known as a female syringe, was introduced in the early 1900s and was in use until the late 1940s when it was replaced by the glass douche nozzle. (Thackray, 'Midwifery & Gynaecological Instruments, (M)463, p. 264.)


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

Vaginal syringe with glass barrel and plunger and a cork bung. Fluid capacity of syringe 60-90 mls. Cotton thread is woven tightly around the end of the plunger. There are five holes in the end of the glass barrel.