Elsie May Caldicott b1888 – Nurse and Missionary

Born to Robert Sanders Caldicott and Elizabeth Hayward on 24th June 1888 in Adelaide, South Australia, Elsie was the couple’s sixth child. The family had a strong faith and were committed church goers and Elsie May went on to live a life dedicated to the church and helping others through missionary work in India at great sacrifice to her own health and comfort.

At the Royal British Nurses Annual Meeting in May 1916, Elsie May, aged 27, was approved as a new member, passed by the registration board. By the end of September of the same year she had set sail for Bombay on the RMS Arabia to serve as a missionary for the Church of Christ. She was to work in a recently erected girls’ orphanage and the hoped for addition of a boys’ orphanage at the mission station at Shrigonda, India, under the leadership of Brother Leach. This was to become a devotion of service for many years serving also at the Baramati Station.

Elsie returned to Australia many times during her missionary years with planned furlough visits during which she worked tirelessly giving talks at various church meetings and Church of Christ annual conferences.

Many of her talks told of the lives of the women in India she worked alongside. She described the harmful practice of Hindu mothers who gave their young children opium, as a calming sedative. Most mothers were uneducated and were forced to marry around the age of 12 to 14. Their lives were difficult and they were forced to do manual labour to bring in more money to enable their families to survive. They had little time to attend to their children and so they gave them opium to keep them quiet. Elsie would have used her nursing training and experience, working alongside the doctors at the missionary station to help these desperate families.

Often the treatment they received would either be free or for very small amounts of money and patients would also receive copies of gospels printed in their native language.

Sometimes, Elsie had to return to Australia earlier than planned to take time to recuperate on account of her health, giving us an indication of how hard life was for those who served on the missions, and the great personal risk they undertook to work there. By 1936, she declared herself “lucky” to have only contracted malaria twice! Her diet in India consisted of tropical fruits, seasonal vegetables, increasing amounts of which were European varieties. They drank buffalo milk, much heavier and richer than cow’s milk, which made it harder to digest, but Elsie said that the hardships were relatively small compared to those missionaries who served in the jungle districts. Occasionally, her travels around the country visiting other mission stations would be of great personal danger as she encountered minefields and hostile areas.

Much of her missionary work was employed in nursing. Elsie had originally worked at Adelaide Hospital and over her time serving in the mission field had grown her skills and experience to become a valued member of the team. Often her patients were mothers and children starving due to the famine which was a major problem in India at the time. She would often undergo more training when back in Australia and in 1929 she undertook training on the Truby King methods at the Tweddle Hospital in Melbourne. These were focused on nutrition for infants, emphasising the importance in the regularity of feeding, sleeping and bowel movements. That year she was also appointed matron of the Dhond Missionary Hospital under the leadership of Dr. G. Oldfield, working alongside colleague, Linda Foreman and three Indian nurses, two of which had been raised in the orphanage of the mission station. Inspired by the Truby King training in 1936 one of the projects Elsie May worked on was to set up a child welfare and ante-natal clinic in the Poona district of India.

After a life devoted to serving the church, Elsie May Caldicott never married and died aged 82, on the 27th April 1971. She was buried in Pasadena, Mitcham City, South Australia.

You can view all the record sources which provide this information and Elsie’s other genealogical records and family pedigrees on the genealogy part of our website here – Elsie May Caldicott Person Profile.

2 responses to “Elsie May Caldicott b1888 – Nurse and Missionary”

  1. This was my Great Aunt. Prior to reading this she was just a photo with birth and death dates on the family tree, I wondered why no husband or children, now I know.
    By the way, Adelaide is in South Australia not New South Wales.

    1. Thanks for visiting the site and sharing your relationship with Elsie May. It has been a privilege to find out about her and tell her story. Thanks for the geography correction – I will update later on the computer. Please feel free to join our Facebook group for the Caldicott One-Name Study where there are other members who are descendants from Elsie’s family. Kind regards, Melanie

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