Women of the North

Celebrating the fascinating lives of women in the history of North Queensland

Myra Rendle Mackenzie – dentist

When Myra Rendle was 14 years old she began an apprenticeship with a Brisbane dentist named Robert Thomason. After completing her training four years later she opened her own practice, which was situated on the corner of Queen and Edward Streets, Brisbane. This might seem unremarkable if it weren’t for the fact that Myra opened her practice in 1899. She was 18 years old, and she was the first female dentist in Queensland.

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Portrait of Myra Rendle, 1911. Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

The Brisbane Courier considered it a sign of progress for Brisbane:

The profession of dentistry has been practised for some time past by women dentists in America, and there are also several practising successfully in Melbourne. Brisbane is now following suit, and will add the name of Miss Myra Rendle to the list of dental practitioners. Miss Rendle is a daughter of the well-known physician, Dr R. Rendle, M.D. of this town, and she is a pupil of the late Dr R.B. Thomason.

Undoubtedly Myra’s father, Richard, was an important influence in her choice of career. He recognised his daughter’s ‘above average mental capacity’ and evidently saw no barriers to his daughter – a woman – taking up dentistry. Indeed, Miss Rendle attended the inaugural meeting of the Academy of Stomatology¹ in her father’s consulting rooms, along with 25 other Brisbane dentists or dental students in 1896. Although it would have been unusual at this time to have a woman present at such a meeting, this does not seem to have deterred Miss Rendle.

In January 1901, after completing a ‘professional tour’ of Normanton, Croydon and Burketown, Myra Rendle opened a practice in Flinders Street, Townsville. During the next fifteen years in Townsville, Myra was very active in a number of sports, including golf, sailing and rowing.

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Myra Rendle and friends rowing on Ross Creek, Townsville, c. 1905. Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

In 1916, Myra married William Seaforth Mackenzie in Wellington, New Zealand. Mackenzie was from the Lower Burdekin, but had obtained work as a lithographer in New Zealand. They had a son together the following year, but tragically in 1918 her husband William was killed in action in France in World War I. Myra returned to Australia with her son, but did not practice dentistry again, except for a brief stint as a locum in Brisbane.

 

¹ Stomatology – a branch of medical science dealing with the mouth and its diseases.

Selected Sources:

  • Brisbane Courier, 9 March 1899, pp. 4 & 6; 30 November 1900, p. 2.
  • Townsville Daily Bulletin, 3 April 1916, p. 4; 6 February 1915, p. 1.
  • Courier Mail, 12 May 1954, p. 2.
  • Romaniuk, Kon, ‘Pioneer Woman of Dentistry Myra Rendle Mackenzie’, ADA News Bulletin, September 1994, pp. 32-35.

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