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Miss Frances Ivens (1870 - 1944)

Liverpool's first woman consultant and medecin chef (Chief Doctor) of the Scottish Women's Hospital, Royaumont and Villiers-Cotterets, France 1914-1919.

Hannah Mary Frances Ivens was born in Warwickshire. Influenced by family friend Margaret Joyce she followed her to the Royal Free Hospital's Medical School for Women in 1894, graduating with First Class Honours in 1902, attaining a Masters (with gold medal) in Surgery in 1903. She travelled and gained valuable experience in obstetrics and gynaecology in Dublin and Vienna.

In 1907 she was appointed the first woman consultant in Liverpool where she ran the gynaecology department at Bootle's Stanley Hospital. She later started clinics in her home for the babies of the poor, long before infant welfare clinics were established. In the same year Miss Ivens was elected a member of the Liverpool Medical Institution.

She was later appointed consultant at both the Samaritan and Liverpool Maternity Hospital. 

By 1914, she was asked to run the newly formed Scottish Women's Hospital at the Abbey of Royaumont for the French Red Cross; this voluntary hospital was known as l'Hopital Auxiliare 301 d'Armee Francaise. 

Regarded as a 'show' hospital of the French army and staffed by women, it started with 6 patients, quickly growing to 300. In all, by the end of the war Ivens and her staff had treated over 10,800 patients.  

A visiting French general after being shown around by Ivens  was  heard  to  mutter  on  leaving,  "Quels yeux,

Miss Frances Ivens

The Samaritan Hospital, 36 Upper Parliament Street, Liverpool. 

Credit: Michael Rowland, Caring for Women and Babies in Liverpool. LMI Library, ref R747)   

quel espirit, quelle femme!' She was highly respected and admired by all. Miss Ivens opened a satellite hutted hospital close to the front at Villiers-Cotterets, which she ran until being forced to retreat back to Royaumont.

French soliders recuperating at Royaumont.

Courtesy of Frances Ivens   

She became an expert in Gas Gangrene having articles published in 1916 and 1917. 


Decorated with both the croix de Guerre and the Legion d'Honneur she returned to civilian practice in Liverpool after the war. In June 1919 the Medical Women's Federation (MWF) held a lunch for 140 colleagues and friends in honour of Miss Ivens' outstanding contribution.

In 1926 she was the first woman to be elected Vice President of the Liverpool Medical Institution. Aged 60 she married lifelong friend, barrister and widower Mr Charles Matthew Knowles in 1930 and retired from medical practice, moving first to London until her husband's retirement, when they moved to Truro in Cornwall. She died in 1944. 

Female Doctors of WWI - BBC Radio 4

To listen to the BBC's Women's Hour episode featuring Mrs Adrienne Mayers, LMI  Librarian, and  Colonel  Debbie Telford, the first  woman commander  of  208  Field Hospital  speaking on female doctors of WWI and now, please click the picture on the right, and scroll down to the appropriate  chapter. The  link
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