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Surgeon Anne Louise McIlroy

Biography of Surgeon Anne Louise McIlroy

Dame Anne Louise McIlroy was born in County Antrim on the 11th November 1874 to Dr James McIlroy, a medical practitioner in Ballycastle. She shared her father's enthusiasm for Medicine and came to Glasgow University in 1894 to do a medical degree.

She was one of the first women medical graduates, winning class prizes in both medicine and pathology before obtaining her MB ChB in 1898 followed by an MD with commendation in 1900. After further postgraduate work throughout Europe specialising in Gynaecology and Obstetrics she was appointed Gynaecological Surgeon at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow, a post she held from 1906 to 1910.

At the outbreak of the First World War she and other female medical graduates offered their services to the government. They were declined on grounds of the battlefield being no place for women. Undeterred and determined to help with the war effort this brave group of women applied to the French government and, on being accepted, set up the Scottish Women's Hospital for Foreign Service. Dame McIlroy commanded a unit of the hospital at Troyes in France before being posted to Serbia and three years later Salonika.

During her time in Salonika she established a nurses training school for Serbian girls and oversaw the establishment of the only orthopaedic centre in the Eastern Army. She finished her war service as a Surgeon at a Royal Army Medical Corps hospital in Constantinople. She won many awards in recognition of her services during the war including a French Médaille des Epidemies, French Croix de Guerre avec palme, Serbian Order of St Sava and the Serbian Red Cross. In 1920 she was appointed to the Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

After the war she returned for a short time to Glasgow, but left in 1921 when she was appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the London School of Medicine for Women, becoming the first woman to be appointed a medical professor in United Kingdom. She faced opposition at times in this role, being as she was a graduate from a different medical school and one outside of London. She was undaunted by the task, however, and became an inspiring teacher.

She also worked as a Surgeon at the Marie Curie Hospital for Women during this period. Her services to Midwifery were recognised in 1929 when she was appointed Dame of the British Empire. Her achievements were also recognised by universities in the form of honorary degrees, being awarded a DSc from London, an LLD from Glasgow and DSc from Belfast, which as an Ulster woman she was particularly proud of.

She retired in 1934, to have, in her own words 'a few years of freedom'. She felt strongly though about doing her duty and when war was declared she immediately offered her services, despite being well past retirement age. She organised emergency maternity services in Buckinghamshire and, showing her generous nature, selflessly took her own property to provide equipment and comforts at the hospital in the face of the inevitable shortages. After the Second World War she returned to her retirement, residing with her sister in Turnberry, Ayrshire. She died peacefully in a Glasgow hospital on 8th February 1968.

In her obituaries at the time friends and colleagues remembered her fondly as in innovator and shrewd clinician whose personal charm and dignity shone through. Her achievements show that she truly was a pioneer of women in medicine, who, as one colleague recalls, expected no less from her staff;

"Dame Louise was a hard taskmaster. She expected, and got, the very best from her staff; praise and criticism were justly awarded. To have worked for and with her was a privilege truly sought after by young aspiring specialists."

Dame Anne Louise McIlroy was a remarkable woman who gave so much during the two world wars. Her achievements have left their mark on the medical profession, shaping the way for future generations and ensuring that her legacy will live on.

Summary

Surgeon Anne Louise McIlroy
Rank: Surgeon
Regiment: Scottish Womens Hospital - Salonika
Degree: MD DSc
Awards: Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE), French Croix De Guerre, French Medaille d'Honneur
Comments: N/A
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: Ch 4/4/2/2/318

Sources

Obituary: The Lancet, Vol 1 (1968), p429

Obituary: British Medical Journal, Vol 1 (1968), p451

Biography: General information held in historical subject folder at University of Glasgow Archive Services

Biography: St Mungo's Bairns: some notable Glasgow students down the centuries (Clydebank 1990, Shedden Macintosh)

Photograph: (GUAS Ref: CH 4/4/2/2/318)

Indexes to prize list (GUAS Ref: R 7/3) and calendars (GUAS Ref: SEN 10)

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