Medical minister’s story told

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Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia

The untold story of the first Seventh-day Adventist to study medicine in Australia now features in a new book by an Avondale staff member.

or a woman to take up medicine was really . . . going against the odds—it was a man’s world.

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 Rose-lee, who researched the story for three years in her role as curator of the Adventist Heritage Centre.

Born To Serve author Rose-lee Power. [Photo courtesy: Melissa Preston]


Margherita, a graduate of The University of Sydney in 1911, played an important role in the accreditation of the then Sydney Sanitarium. At a time when women would usually  be chaperoned when out in public, Margherita ran clinics and, in the absence of her husband, the hospital, opened a birthing centre, organised nurses’ training and presented at conferences.

Sydney Adventist Hospital’s connection with its community and 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,” says Dr Barry Oliver, president of the Church in the South Pacific and chair of the hospital’s board.

Barry attended the launch of Born To Serve as part of an Adventist Women’s Conference at the Watson Park Convention Centre north of Brisbane on August 17. 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.”

Margherita is a “role model for women everywhere and for all time,” writes Pastor Carole Ferch-Johnson in the foreword. The church in Australia’s Ministerial Association associate for women in pastoral ministry remembers Margherita as a “formidable person” who commanded a “great deal of respect.”

Rod and Nita Ellison, who were friends of Margherita, began the project to write her story. “She’d done so much for our church as a woman in ministry . . . we loved her,” says Nita. She recalls Margherita’s sense of humour. “We spent a lot of the time laughing with her while we were visiting.”

Nita approached Rose-lee to finish writing the story, but because Margherita had no children, Rose-lee 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 Margherita’s honour, just before printing. The documents confirmed facts and provided images of Margherita later in her life.

Born To Serve is illustrated not only with photographs of Margherita but with illustrations and paintings from Nita and her granddaughter.

All profits from the sale of the book will go to two projects that protect women in difficult circumstances: Keep Girls Safe and Women’s Safe Haven.

Born To Serve is available from the Avondale College of Higher Education Online Store.