Collection UQFL16 - Elizabeth Kenny Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Elizabeth Kenny Papers


  • 1938-2001 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

5 boxes, 4 parcels.

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Elizabeth Kenny was a self-trained nurse who started her career on the Darling Downs in Queensland before serving as a staff nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service in 1915. She was promoted to Sister in 1917 and continued to use this title after her she left the army. She became well-known for her controversial clinical management of poliomyelitis and cerebal palsy in children that she cared for in her clinic in Townsville from 1932. Although strongly opposed by many in the medical profession, her treatments became popular as the results proved more positive than traditional methods of immobilization. She became a cult figure around the world, particularly in North America where she started many clinics during the poliomyelitis epidemics of the 1940s. She died in Toowoomba in 1952. A film about her life, Sister Kenny premiered in 1946.

Archival history

Collection previously titled as: Papers, 1938-2001
Collection alternatively titled as: Elizabeth Kenny Collection.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Correspondence; file of testimonials from medical practitioners and others in the United States and Canada; reports on her treatment method and summarised lecture notes; some patient case histories, biographical papers and newspaper clippings.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Unrestricted access (1 restricted file).

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright applies.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Publication note

The Australian women's register, AWH000059

Publication note

Material from this collection has been cited in:
Alexander, W. (2003). Sister Elizabeth Kenny : maverick heroine of the polio treatment controversy. Central Queensland University Press.
Rogers, N. (2013). Polio wars : Sister Elizabeth Kenny and the golden age of American medicine. Oxford University Press.

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)



Millennium Local System Number


OCLC Number

222659658 ; 1096560008

Libraries Australia ID

21260347 ; 63004912

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Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Revised, AM, 25-May-2020.
Migrated from LMS: April 2019, P.A.




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