HerStory

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Phyllis Dorothy CILENTO

Also known as: Mother M.D.

Born: 13/3/1894

Died: 26/7/1987

Special Achievements:

First Queenslander of the Year (1981) and Queensland Senior Citizen of the Year (1987) she was awarded a medal of merit by the Australian chapter of the Legion of Frontiersmen of the Commonwealth, and was named (1982) Loyal Australian of the Year by the Assembly of Captive European Nations.

In 1931, Phyllis founded the Mothercraft Association of Queensland, serving as President until 1946. She was also a specialist lecturer in mothercraft at the University of Queensland. In 1928 she started contributing articles on mothercraft to 'Women's Budget', then writing a weekly column under the nom de plume 'Mother M.D.' for the Brisbane Daily mail and from 1933 for the Courier Mail. She also wrote for Women's Day and other magazines. Phyllis published her first book, 'Square Meals for the Family' in 1933. She wrote twenty-four books and monographs, including 'The Cilento Way' (1984). Her final work was a autobiography, Lady cilento M.B.B.S: 'My Life' (1987). She stated in 1987 that much she had fought for, like natural childbirth, family planning, and permitting fathers to be present at the birth of their children, was now accepted. In 1977 an award established by the Nutritional Foods Association of Australia and a resource centre for parents in Brisbane were named after her. In 1978 she was elected a fellow of the International Academy of Preventative Medicine and in 1980, a life member of the Australian Medical Association.

Additional Information:

Phyllis was a clinical clerk at the Hospital for sick children in London. She attended the Marylebone Medical Mission Dispensary. She obtained a post as 'lady medical officer' in the British colonial service and took charge of a women's ward in a hospital at Teluk Anson . She also undertook a course in public health at the University of Sydney. At the hospital for sick children she was physician at out-patients (1931-33). Cilento was a general practitioner with an active obstetric practice. She was inaugural president (1929) of the Queensland Medical Women's Society. Phyllis was also active in the National Council of Women of Queensland, she was President of the local branch of the Business and Professional Women's Association (1948) and of the Lyceum Club (1951-52). She was a member of the inaugural council of the Family Planning Association of Queensland and a member of the Creche and Kindergarten Association of Queensland.