Story of First Australian Adventist to Study Medicine Told
The previously untold story of the first Seventh-day Adventist to study medicine in Australia is now featured in a new book by an Avondale College staff member.
STORY TELLER: Born to Serve author Rose-lee Power, of church-owned Avondale College, details the life of the first Seventh-day Adventist in Australia to study medicine and become a physician.Rose-lee Power describes Dr. Margherita Freeman, the subject of Born to Serve, as “courageous and determined.” “For a woman to take up medicine was really . . . going against the odds—it was a man’s world,” says Power, who researched the story for three years in her role as curator of the Adventist Heritage Centre.
Freeman, a graduate of the University of Sydney in 1911, played an important role in the accreditation of what was then known as the Sydney Sanitarium. At a time when women would usually be chaperoned when out in public, Freeman ran clinics and, in the absence of her husband, opened a birthing center, organized nurses’ training, and presented at conferences.
What is now Sydney Adventist Hospital, its connection with the community, and its reputation for providing quality care “is in no small part due to the work of Dr. Freeman and others like her who had a vision and spirit of service that all would do well to emulate,” said Barry Oliver, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific and chair of the hospital’s board.
Oliver attended the launch of Born to Serve as part of an Adventist women’s conference at the Watson Park Convention Centre north of Brisbane. He notes how the history of the church in Australia includes “so many untold stories of courage, commitment and faith. Thankfully, Rose-lee . . . was not willing to let [this] amazing story . . . fade into the forgotten files of the archives.”
Freeman is a “role model for women everywhere and for all time,” writes Carole Ferch-Johnson in the foreword. The associate director for women in pastoral ministry in Australia’s Ministerial Association remembers Freeman as a “formidable person” who commanded a “great deal of respect.”
Rod and Nita Ellison, who were friends of Freeman, began the project to write her story. “She’d done so much for our church as a woman in ministry . . . we loved her,” said Nita. She recalls Freeman’s sense of humor. “We spent a lot of the time laughing with her while we were visiting.”
Ellison approached Power to finish writing the story, but because Freeman had no children, Power found it difficult finding accurate sources. However, a set of documents and photographs became available from the Freeman Nursing Home in Rossmoyne, which is named in Freeman’s honor, just before printing. The documents confirmed facts and provided images of Freeman later in life.