Rebecca Hart

My involvement with the ACM Midwifery History Project Steering Group began back in 2017, when I responded to an expression of interest sent to members for the then Heritage Advisory Committee. I saw this as a way to combine my midwifery with my history studies.

As a midwife, I graduated from the first cohort Bachelor of Midwifery at ACU in 2004 and then a Master of Health Science (Clinical Education). I worked as a core birth suite/family birth centre midwife at Mercy Hospital for Women, and returned to ACU as a midwifery lecturer, Follow Through student mentor, Continuity of Care Experience co-ordinator, and tutor at Jim-Baa-Yer Indigenous Higher Education Unit. I have been a member of the College since 2002, and served the State Executive Committee (Vic) as Student Representative 2002-2004.

As a historian I have a love for genealogy that led me to do a Graduate Diploma in Local, Family & Applied History at UNE. To complete my Grad Dip I wrote a minor thesis on midwifery in rural Victoria 1886-1920 (available on request). This involved a case study of my great-great grandmother Hannah Jane ‘Grannie’ Watts and her midwifery practice records. I began my PhD to develop and extend this research. I am currently working as the Education Placement Officer at Museums Victoria.

View Rebecca’s ORCID research profile

Hart, R. (2016). “Where There’s a Will: Using Deceased Estate Documents to Inform Family History.” History In The Making, 2: 14–27.

Is it possible to connect to people’s lives by examining the affairs of their death? When a person dies, they commonly leave an inheritance for their descendants in the form of real estate or land and buildings, and personal estate such as money, investments, goods, equipment, and personal belongings. The distribution of this estate is often, but not always, governed by a will. A will is a public, legal document intended to manage a person’s affairs after their death. It directs the disposal of real and personal estate, nominates the people responsible for handling the affairs, and makes any specific final wishes known. Although it is formulaic and bound by legal protocol, it is also unique to each testator. A will can be a very candid and private document that reveals socioeconomic status, family connections and relationships, and expose the views or personality of the deceased. Like any source, the information gleaned from these documents can vary widely, however investigating who gets what and why and under what conditions or terms can be very revealing and provide rich data for a family historian. To that end, the legacy of my great-great grandmother Hannah Jane Watts and her daughter Catherine Jane Hogg will be examined. Death certificates, wills, and deceased estate files will be used to examine the distribution of wealth within the family, and unpack the meanings behind testamentary dispositions, whereby Hannah and Catherine reveal different aspects of family relationships.

Hart, R. (2018). Making Visible the Invisible.  Australian Midwifery News, 18 (4): 27–28.

Brief reflective piece summarising my minor thesis, which used Hannah Jane ‘Grannie’ Watts as a case study and examined her midwifery practice book. Being based on actual practice documentation, this study moved midwifery history beyond anecdotal life story and unpacked some of Hannah’s practice. Women’s work, home based work, unpaid work and midwifery work are often invisible domains in both the historical record and the living world: the study of Hannah’s book makes them visible.

Hart, R. (2022). A hundred year journey home: When family history becomes historic artefact. Australian Midwifery News, 30: 44-45.

Every family has ‘that’ person. That person who collects the things. That person who holds the stories. That person who keeps the memories. That person that connects us to our family history. Somehow, in my family, I have become that person. The collector, the holder, the keeper, the story teller. One story has woven its way into and through my life to an unprecedented degree. It has become my academic focus and my personal passion. My great-great grandmother reaches across time and space, whispering to me, urging me to find her and share her story…

How does an illiterate, Irish immigrant woman, a twice widowed mother of six, come to be an esteemed member of her community? Hannah is remembered still, a hundred years after her death, and commemorated by the Melton community in Hannah Watts Park and the local electoral ward of Watts named for her. And most recently, she is commemorated in the exhibition ‘Hannah Watts: midwife, mother, matriarch’ now on display in the City of Melton library. Yes – an exhibition about a midwife!

Hart, R. (2019).  ‘Hannah Jane ‘Grannie’ Watts’, talk given at book launch Six Stolen Mugs by John Watts, Melton City Library, 5 July.

Talk given at book launch ‘Six Stolen Mugs’ by John Watts, Melton City Library, 5 July 2019, introducing new information about the midwifery practice of Hannah Jane ‘Grannie’ Watts, arising from the thesis ‘Send for Grannie: Midwifery in rural Victoria 1886-1921’

E-hive – digital collection

An online collection of family artefacts associated with Grannie Hannah Jane Watts, midwife, of Melton, Victoria.