One of the doctors at Mont Park in the 1920s and 1930s was Dr Bertha Wood (1888 – 1942). She was the third daughter and tenth child of Edward and Sarah Wood. Her father died on 1904 (aged 60 years) and her mother died in 1918 (aged 71 years).
Of her seven brothers, two enlisted as soldiers in WWI and both returned to Australia but had suffered very serious injuries. Her brother Norman Mackenzie (Harry) Wood (b. 1885) died in 1919, and Samuel Arthur (b. 1873) lived on, but with a very significant abdominal bullet wound.
There were not many women doctors in the 1920s in Melbourne, and very few women doctors were appointed to mental asylums. Dr Bertha Wood had graduated from The University of Melbourne in the early 1920s. She was a member of the Melbourne Lyceum Club, which was limited to women who were university graduates or had distinguished themselves in the arts or community service.
Dr Wood was mentioned in the Argus newspaper in 1923 when doctors were reported as quelling an incident at Mont Park. It appears that Dr Wood from the female section of the institution, and Dr Catarinich were summoned, when an attendant was struck by a patient on the evening of Saturday 15th December. The attendant subsequently died.
Dr Wood is mentioned in Parliamentary Papers in 1932 as assisting Professor Woodruff from the University of Melbourne with serological research related to malarial treatment at Mont Park.
She seems to have been well liked by the female patients with records of some of them writing to her when they were released from the Mont Park hospitals.
She had an unusual and controversial theory about the role of physical appearance in mental illness for some women – her idea being that deformities or severe blemishes contributed to psychiatric disturbances. The Mercury (Hobert) newspaper reported on this idea in 1940.
Dr Bertha Wood died in 1942 having worked at Sunbury Hospital as well as Mont Park. From an In Memorium in The Argus 1943 it appears that she was survived by only four of her siblings at this stage.
Unfortunately we have no photograph of Dr Bertha Wood, but her extended family may be able to assist us with that.
By Kathy Andrewartha
Mont Park Tragedy. Attendant’s Death https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/1988951
New Angle on Mental Disease https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/25817058?
Watts, A. (2015) Maternal insanity in Victoria, Australia: 1920 – 1973. Ph. D. Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.