Our Lady's Nurses
For the poor
1913 - 2013

Co-founders of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, Eileen O’Connor and Father Edward McGrath msc.


Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor was founded in Sydney in 1913 by a young Australian woman, Eileen O’Connor, and a Missionaries of the Sacred Heart priest, Father Edward McGrath.

Both shared a deep devotion to Our Lady and the desire to establish a ministry of compassionate service to the sick poor in their own homes in her honour. At the time, there was no Government healthcare assistance, meaning that if poor people were ill they could not afford to see a doctor, let alone go into hospital.

Benefactors helped them, especially Father Edward Gell and his sister, Frances, who donated a house in Coogee. Eileen gave it the name Our Lady’s Home. The ministry of the new society began from there on 15 April 1913.

Over the following months and years, a number of young women arrived at Coogee to undertake their mission amongst Sydney’s sick poor, many of whom lived in squalor. They quickly became affectionately known as the ‘Brown Nurses’ because of their distinctive brown cloaks and bonnets, chosen in honour of St Joseph.

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