Jane Kinder

This biography is largely based on entries from Papers Past. Further secondary resources are listed in the bibliography at the end.

Class of 1900


Early Life

Jane Kinder was born in Balcultha in 1869 (1) to Mr John (born circa 1838) and Margaret (nee Nelson, born circa 1847) Kinder. Jane was the eldest in a family of ten. (1) Her father was born in Bedford, England and emigrated to Australia in 1855 at the age of seventeen years. He spent several years on various goldfields before coming to Otago in 1861. He then spent time on the goldfields of Tuapeka, Dunstan, the Shotover, parts of the West Coast and Waiamarina. By this time, he had accumulated considerable wealth and invested in a farm at Stoney Creek, near Balcultha. He also became involved in contract road-making. He was very interested in education and for many years was a member of the Stoney Creek School committee. He believed in the benefits of a good education and his children all received the best in the way of educational facilities that money could buy. He and Margaret had six sons (including two lawyers, a doctor, a chemist, and a law clerk) and four daughters (including a doctor and two schoolteachers). (2) Little is known about Jane’s mother other than her father, James Nelson, was from the small farming community of Lovell’s Flat, which was about fourteen kilometres northeast of Balclutha, and that she was a devoted adherent of the Presbyterian Church. (3)

Jane attended Stoney Creek Public School and in 1881 at the age of twelve years won an Otago Education Board Junior Scholarship, with a score of 454. (4) This scholarship would have been of assistance in her attendance at Milton’s Tokomairiro High School the following year. Otago was at the forefront of developing a good educational network; (5) this high school had been established since 1856. (6) It was twenty-five kilometres from Stoney Creek so it is probable Jane would have boarded in Milton during the school week. At the end of her 1883 school year she received an Otago Education Board Senior Scholarship, scoring in the top fifteen competitors. (7) By her sixth form year in 1886, she was attending Otago Girls’ High School and had received the sixth form science prize as well as the Lady Stout’s sixth form prize for excellent work; (8) in 1887, she had obtained more than 1500 marks in her New Zealand University examinations. (9)

Teaching Career

In 19th century New Zealand many teachers did not receive formal teaching training but were apprenticed to schools and learned on the job. Dunedin had the first teacher-training school which opened in 1876. Jane may have attended this Otago training school in 1888 and passed her teachers’ examinations for the Class D category (10) which required an examination in four compulsory subjects and two optional subjects. The compulsory subjects were English Grammar and Composition, Arithmetic, Geography, and History. (11) Her two optional subjects were Algebra and Euclid (probably referring to what we now call Geometry). (10) Female candidates also were required to exhibit proficiency in needlework and all candidates were required to pass an examination in elementary science, vocal music, and drawing. Certificates in Class A, B, and C required attendance at a university. (11)

It would appear from Paper Past entries that she taught for five years. In 1889, Jane was appointed head teacher of Round Hill school, a small settlement near Naseby. (12) By 1893 she was head teacher at Whare Flat, located about fifteen kilometers to the west of Dunedin, and at the end of that year was tendering her resignation. (13)

Otago University

In 1894, Jane, at the age of twenty-five, commenced her studies at Otago University in preparation towards her medical degree. Her motivation in changing the course of her career is unknown. The Otago University Class results at the end of this first year indicate she passed in the following subjects: Physics, Practical Physics, Chemistry, Practical Chemistry, Zoology, Practical Biology and Botany. (14) By the end of 1896, she had passed her first professional examination (15) and at the end of the 1897 term, she was equal with a W. Sutherland for the staff clinical prize in Clinical Medicine. She also received First Class marks in the Junior Division of The Theory and Practice of Medicine and Third Class marks in the Senior Division of Physiology. (16) In 1900 she graduated with her MB ChB NZ, along with three other female graduates: Daisy Platts from Dunedin and Constance Frost and Alice Woodward from Auckland.

Early Career and Premature Death

Like so many of the early female graduates, one can only surmise that Jane was unsuccessful in finding a house surgeon’s position in New Zealand. In a February issue of the Otago Daily Times, it reports her desire to go to the Boer War front: (19)

Miss Jane Kinder, Stony Creek, Balclutha, who has just finished her medical course, was desirous of going to the front in the capacity of nurse. This question was then discussed, when it was mentioned that a large number of women in Dunedin were anxious to go in a similar capacity.

However, she was accepted to an opening at Adelaide Hospital in April 1900, (20) and she and her colleague Constance Frost, elected to go directly to South Australia to take up roles as resident medical physicians. They were welcomed here, as male doctors were in short supply possibly due to the closure of the Adelaide Medical School which involved a teaching squabble. (21) Although the positions were temporary, each woman was reappointed the following year. (22)

In June of 1900, the first cases of the Bubonic Plague appeared in both Auckland and Adelaide. (23) It is caused by the plague bacterium (Yersinia pestis) and is mainly spread by flea bites from infected small animals especially rabbits, hares and some species of cats. Without treatment (antibiotics) death occurs in 30% to 90% of those infected. (24)

At some point, Jane was put in charge of the Quarantine Station at Torrens Island (near Adelaide) which cared for the plague patients. She also became the assistant bacteriologist at Adelaide Hospital. (2)  In late 1901, she suffered from a severe attack of influenza, which significantly weakened her. She returned to her family home in Balcultha, (25) and passed away on 2 February 1902. (18) In Historia Nunc Vivat: Medical Practitioners in New Zealand 1840–1930, she is recorded as having died of tuberculosis. (18)

Her obituary states: (25)

Dr Kinder was a good student, hard-working, and painstaking. She was very fond of, and interested in her work, and it is not too much to say that her devotion to her work helped to accelerate her death. Thus, a promising and useful career has been cut short by her all to early death.



  1. Births, Deaths & Marriages Online Wellington: New Zealand Government Internal Affairs; [05.07.2022]. Available from: https://www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/
  2. Obituary: Mr John Kinder. Grey River Argus. 1911 28.01.1911. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/GRA19110128.2.2
  3. Balclutha District News Obituary. Otago Daily Times. 1933 25.08.1933. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT19330825.2.140
  4. Education Board Scholarships. Otago Daily Times. 1882 21.01.1882. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18820121.2.50
  5. Swarbrick N. ‘Country Schooling: Getting an education: 1800s’ Wellington: Te Ara -The Encyclopedia of New Zealand; 2008 [11.07.2022]. Available from: https://teara.govt.nz/en/country-schooling/page-1
  6. Tokomairiro High School – About us Milton: Tokomairiro High School; [06.07.2022]. Available from: https://www.tokohigh.school.nz/about
  7. Otago Education Board Scholarship Competition, 1883. Otago Daily Times. 1883 29.12.1883. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18831229.2.18
  8. High School Examinations Otago Witness. 1886 24.12.1886. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW18861224.2.120
  9. N.Z. University Examinations. Evening Post. 1888 26.01.1888. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP18880126.2.15
  10. The Teachers’ Examination. Evening Star. 1889 26.02.1889. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890226.2.22
  11. Goring F. Regulations for the Examination, Classification, and Certification of Teachers [Internet]. Wellington1878.
  12. Appointments. Otago Daily Times. 1889 17.05.1889. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18890517.2.25
  13. Education Board. Evening Star. 1894 18.01.1894. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18940118.2.32
  14. Otago University Class Examinations. Otago Witness. 1894 08.11.1894. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/OW18941108.2.105
  15. Bruce Herald. 1897 05.03.1897. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/BH18970305.2.11
  16. The Medical School. Evening Star. 1897 16.11.1897. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18971116.2.4
  17. University Examinations. Press. 1900 08.02.1900. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP19000208.2.24
  18. Wright-St Clair RE. Historia Nunc Vivat: Medical Practitioners in New Zealand 1840–1930. Christchurch: Cotter Medical History Trust; 2003.
  19. The Otago and Southland Contingent. Otago Daily Times. 1900 05.02.1900. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT19000205.2.37.23
  20. Personal. Evening Star. 1900 20.04.1900. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19000420.2.33
  21. Anderson K. Constance Frost in New Zealand and Australia: a trans-Tasman look at colonial medicine. In: New Countries and Old Medicine. Pyramid Press; 1995. p. 217-22.
  22. Sherwood V. Dr. Constance Helen Frost: general practitioner, bacteriologist, pathologist. Prospect. 2015;14:32-6.
  23. “Pars” About People. Observer. 1900 23.06.1900. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TO19000623.2.13
  24. Bubonic Plague: Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia; 2022 [updated 28.06.202211.07.2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubonic_plague
  25. Obituary Clutha Leader. 1902 04.02.1902. Available from: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CL19020204.2.8




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