The Extraordinary Dr. Frances Ivens CBE.,MS (Lond), ChM (Liverp), FROG

Mary Hannah Frances Ivens (1870-1944)

  • 1881 – Ellenborough House, Cheltenham
  • 1894 – London School of Medicine
  • 1900 – Qualified London University Gold Medal
  • 1902 – Graduated MBBS Honours
  • 1903 – Master of Surgery
  • 1914 – Royaumont Unit [See Post The Women of Royaumont]
  • 1919 – Liverpool
  • 1926 – Vice President, Liverpool Medical Institution
  • 1929 – Honorary Degree Master of Surgery
  • 1929 – CBE


Mary Hannah Frances was born in Little Harborough, near Rugy, Warwickshire in 1870, the 5th child of William Ivens (1830-1905), Farmer and Timber Merchant, and Elizabeth Ashmole (1840–1880). Her (elder) siblings were:

  • Edith Ivens (1863- )
  • William Ashmole Ivens (1865- ), Timber Merchant, who married Edith K. Winterton, and who had 2 children, Percy (1895- ) and Gwendoline (1898 – )
  • Ethel Ivens (1867- )
  • John Howard Ivens (1868- )
  • Mary Frances (1870–1944)

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.  
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.A visiting French general after being shown around by Ivens was heard to mutter on leaving, “Quels yeux, quelespirit, 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. She became an expert in Gas Gangrene having articles published in 1916 and 1917. 

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. 

[SOURCE: Liverpool Medical Institution]

[See Post The Women of Royaumont]

[See Post: Dr. Frances at work ..possibly!!]

@   @   @   @   @   @   @

Her Grandfather  – William’s father – was John Frankel Ivens (1797 – ), also a timber merchant, who had married Ellenor Cawdell (1801 – ) in 1826.  The 1851 Census shows them living in Harborough Magna, Warwickshire,  with their children: Mary Ann (1827 –  ); William (1830 – ); Ellen (1832 – ) and Catherine Elizabeth (Kate) (1841 – )

Mary Frances’ father and mother, meanwhile, were married in Aston, Birmingham in the summer of 1861. The Census of that year shows her grandparents,  John, 64, and Elenor [sic], 60, living alone in Harborough Magna, Warwickshire.

By the 1871 Census, William Ivens (b.1830) and Elizabeth Ivens (b.1840)are living in Little Harborough, Warwickshire, with their children Edith (b.1863); William A. (b.1865); Ethel (b. 1867); John Howard (b.1868) and Mary Frances (b.1870). John and Ellenor, were recorded at Harborough Magna with unmarried daughter, Kate, now 30.

The 1881 Census shows William Ivens (now 50), Farmer and Timber Merchant, widower, living in Harborough Parva, Warwickshire with children Edith (b.1863); William A. (b.1864) [clerk & Assistant]; and John H. (b.1868). Mary Frances, aged 11, is located at Ellenborough House, Cheltenham (then a girls school). The same Census shows her aunt Catherine Elizabeth (William’s sister) living with her (Mary Frances’) grandmother, Ellen in Harborough Magna, Warwickshire. Both are widowers, so John has died, but also Catherine Elizabeth’s husband – Mr. Burberry.

[Note: Ellenborough Park Hotel (previously the baronial hall, Southam House) is a country house hotel in Southam, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) northeast of the centre of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. Southam is at the foot of Cleeve Hill, the highest point of the Cotswolds, and is part of Tewkesbury Borough. As Southam House, it was the seat of Richard de la Bere and later the Earl of Ellenborough, and after became a girls’ school and then the De la Bere Hotel.]

The 1891 Census shows William A(shmole) b. 1864 – Mary Frances’ brother – Timber Merchant, (born in Harborough Magna) as Head, along with his brother John H. (b.1868); sister Ethel (b.1866), and sister Frances (b.1870). Catherine Elizabeth Burberry (nee Ivens), 49, is still living with her mother,  Eleanor, 90.

The 1901 Census shows us William A(shmole) Ivens (b.1869) married to Edith K. (b.1871), living in Lutterworth, Warwickshire with their two children Percy (b.1895) and Gwendoline (b.1898). Also at this address are Thomas Winterton – father in Law, and Mary Winterton Mother in Law. There is no further sign of Mary Frances as she was probably travelling.

William Ivens Snr. (Mary Frances’ father) died on 4th December, 1905, and probate granted to his then wife, Sarah (nee Walker) Ivens, along with William Ashmole Ivens and John Howard Ivens. He left £27,680 18s 1d.



4 responses to “The Extraordinary Dr. Frances Ivens CBE.,MS (Lond), ChM (Liverp), FROG

  1. I think I have notebooks/scrapbooks that were once Ethel Ivens and one for Margaret Ivens dated 1911.
    Does this tie in with this Ivens family..?


  2. Hi Laura, thanks for this contribution. It is quite possible that your Ethel is Mary’s sister, but I don’t yet recognise Margaret as being one of the family. Can you give me more information such as where they might have lived, their ages, or any other detail? What is your relation to them? If you would like to contact me directly email: I have a large collection of data on this family and we could probably pin down your family more precisely. I look forward to hearing from you. David


  3. Pingback: Dora Pym (nee Ivens) – Classicist | All about Ivens·

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