Miss Mary Birrell Davies (1864-1916)

Born 8 July 1864, Mary Birrell Davies grew up in Liverpool where her father was twice Lord Mayor of the city. In 1883 aged 19, Mary trained as a nurse in London.  In 1893 she passed the London Society 

of Apothecaries'

Miss Frances Ivens

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

The Samaritan Hospital, 36 Upper Parliament Street, Liverpool. 

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

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,

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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