Lucy Compson Daw was born in Mount Barker, South Australia on 18 July, 1883, the eldest daughter of Clara Elizabeth Daw (nee Mackenzie) and Alfred Compson Daw. She came from a pioneering family background which included her grandfather John Wickham Daw, who arrived in South Australia in 1838. Daws Road was named after him, where his property ‘Daw Park’ was situated.
Lucy Daw was trained in nursing at the Adelaide Hospital, and first began under the matronship of Miss Margaret Graham. She finished her training in 1907. In 1915, Lucy Daw was granted leave for active service in World War I where she documented her experiences in her two 1915-16 diaries, which are in the Heritage Office collection. She left Australia on 20 May, 1915 on the RMS “Mooltan” and served in Dardanelles, Egypt, Belgium, England and France. She served in the 3rd Australian General Hospital and Reinforcements.
Lucy Daw returned to Australia on cessation of war hostilities on 20 March 1919, and resumed duties at the Adelaide Hospital, where she assumed the role of Assistant Matron, Acting Matron and was promoted to Matron from 1931 to 1943.
Apart from her war service and six months at the Queen Victoria Hospital as a trainee midwife, Daw spent all her nursing years at the Adelaide Hospital. As Matron, this included the latter years of the Great Depression, which meant coping with difficult economic circumstances and the Hospital Board’s conservative attitude particularly towards nursing and nursing education. Then as the State’s financial position improved, rebuilding and expanding the hospital were priorities – new wards required more staff and increased accommodation for the nurses.
In 1939, Lucy Daw was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for “recognition of long and assiduous service in the nursing profession” in South Australia. She also became President of the Returned Sisters’ Sub-Branch and Member of the Executive of the National Council of Women. She was a member of the Royal British Nurses’ Association SA Branch and was active in promoting State Registration for nurses in South Australia. On her retirement from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Daw became Matron of Eden Park Red Cross Convalescent Home, Marryatville from 1943 to 1946.
Lucy Daw was held in high esteem for her work and contribution to South Australian nursing by the Royal Adelaide Hospital and Returned Sisters’ branch of RSL. Upon her retirement Eden Park, she remained at her home in Unley until entering a private hospital as a patient, where she died in 1958 at age 75.