Ellen Dougherty

Born 20/9/1844 at Cutters Bay, Port Underwood, SI, New Zealand
First Registered Nurse in the World 10/1/1901
Died 3/11/1919
Buried Clareville Cemetery, Carteron, New Zealand


During 1999, my now late husband and I were walking around Clareville Cemetery, Carterton, it was a bit overgrown in places, and hard to read many headstones, but I suddenly stopped in my tracks, I could not believe what I was reading "Ellen Dougherty, First Registered Nurse in the World". I had never heard off her, yet my late Mother in London, had been a Registered Nurse, trained in Bangor, Northern Ireland, and then we heard of Florence Nightingale, but on research, found that England did not begin Registration of Nurses until 1919, the year this Ellen died, so New Zealand, leads the world in Registration of Nursing, something to be very proud off.

After my husband died in March, 2000, my family bought me a computer, I have never looked back, I can find out history….best present ever, a computer, the world at my finger tops! I had been a secretary years ago, so had learnt how to type, so pleased then, could type and find my way around a keyboard without looking, who would have thought, after being taught keyboard skills, it would be so useful in my retirement! It was shortly after finding this interesting grave that we began weeding the overgrown old cemetery, and found more interesting graves!

Ellen Dougherty, was born 20th September 1844 at Cutters Bay, Port Underwood. South Island, New Zealand.

Ellen’s parents were, Sarah McAuley born Londonderry, Northern Ireland 1818, died in Wellington, New Zealand 1898. Buried Bolton Street Cemetery. Wellington, together with her husband, Daniel Dougherty born 1804 died 1857, sadly fell from his horse near Lyall Bay and died.

Sarah and her parents William and Elizabeth McAuley sailed to Canada about 1826, arriving at St John, New Brunswick. Sarah met Daniel…married, Daniel was first mate of the Whale Ship James Stewart. He made a trip to New Zealand in 1837 from Canada and returned with a record cargo. A few months later, he and his wife Sarah, sailed for New Zealand, by this time, Daniel was Captain. They reached Australia, where they stayed for a time, then Daniel set sail for a whaling voyage, a friend cared for Sarah, and sailed to Russell, Bay of Islands, New Zealand.. Their first daughter, Robina was born in 1838. Ellen was the fourth daughter to be born to Sarah and Daniel. Daniel after arriving in New Zealand, became the Pilot for Wellington Harbour, he was 53 when he died. Robina married Thomas James Ladd, 1865 at St. Peter’s Church Wellington, gave birth to a son, William, and Robina died during child birth, William died 1896 aged 30 years. Sarah wife of Daniel died 8th November 1898 aged 80 years.

Ellen trained as a nurse, after learning about Florence Nightingale, Ellen was 41 when she started training at Wellington Hospital, she studied with Charles Barraud with Chemistry in Lambton Quay, which would help her in later years with nursing and being a Matron. She gained certificates with distinction in nursing and senior anatomy.

In 1901, State Registration became law in New Zealand, and Ellen Dougherty's name is first on the list, so she became the first Registered Nurse in the World. January 10th is the anniversary when she became No.1. A great achievement. She became Palmerston North First Matron, and was greatly admired with her work and dedication in the field of nursing.

Some years ago, before Wellington Hospital was rebuilt, her Medal was on loan to Nurses Chapel. Wellington Hospital, and this is where the author of this write up was able to view it and photograph it.

Ellen retired, to live with her married sister, in Lincoln Road, Carterton and sadly passed away in 1919, and is buried at Clareville Cemeterey. Carterton. Wairarapa. New Zealand.

Ellen’s grave was rededicated for the Centenary of Registration of Nursing, 10th January 2002. Nursing Council of New Zealand organised it with the kind assistance of Adéle Pentony-Graham, Clareville Taphophile. Many members of the extended family were invited to the ceremony at the Graveside, including her Gt. Niece, Patsy Hutchison, nee Drummond (she was born at Clareville School House). Patsy has since died, in her 101st year. She wore Ellen’s ring, and was the last surviving member of the family who had known Ellen, she said was very strict - Patsy travelled from Otaki for the Centenary Celebrations, Carterton had a loan of an empty shop to display Nursing uniforms through the years. Even visited by descendants of the family.

Every year on January 10th, a bouquet of flowers are placed on Ellen’s grave.

Adéle Pentony-Graham
Clareville Cemetery Taphophile.