Roll of Honour

Assistant Surgeon

Mary Alexander


Mary Alexander was among the first generation of Glasgow University's women doctors. The Medical School was established in Queen Margaret College in 1890 and in 1894 Miss Marion Gilchrist graduated MB and CM, the first woman to graduate from Glasgow University. By the time Mary Alexander matriculated in Medicine in 1907 there were sixty women in the Faculty. It was still not a course for the faint–hearted and the women had to fight for an equal education.

Memorial chapel at the University of Glasgow
The Memorial Chapel at the University of Glasgow

Mary already had an MA. She was born in Glasgow on 21st November 1886. When she matriculated in the Arts faculty for the first time in October 1903, to study Latin and Mathematics, her father William, whose occupation she described as a blockmaker, was already deceased. She was sixteen. She gave her home address as the United Free Manse, Kilmallie, Corpach and in term time she was living at Queen Margaret Hall. Later, in 1909, she moved to 88 Hyndland Street.

Mary was an excellent student. In her second year, in 1905–1906 she gained a First Class certificate in Ordinary French. The following year she took third place (equal) in German. She graduated MA in 1906 and proceeded to Medicine. Each year, she featured in the prize–list, taking Second Class certificates in Anatomy, Chemistry and Surgery, First Class certificates in Medical Jurisprudence, Midwifery, the Practice of Medicine and Eye Diseases. She graduated MB ChB in 1910.

Mary Alexander was one of a number of courageous medical graduates who volunteered for war service. Edinburgh medical graduate Elsie Inglis was undaunted by the refusal of the British Government to find work for them, and, with the backing of the Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Movements and the French Government, proceeded to set up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, first in France and then in Serbia over the winter of 1914–1915. The hospitals were staffed by women, of whom about a half were Scots. Mary Alexander served in Salonika. During initial difficulties with management, she and Honoria Keer and Barbara McGregor tendered their resignations in support of Glasgow graduate Annie McIlroy when she challenged the running of the tented hospital. The problem was solved, and Mary remained there as assistant surgeon.

After the war, Mary returned to Scotland and in 1925 was married to fellow Glasgow graduate Alexander Silver (MA, 1907). They went out to live and work in South India, and lived at the Church of Scotland Mission at Arkonan. Some time in later life she returned and the last address known to the University in 1975 was c/o Miller, 106 Comiston Road, Edinburgh.

Comments and Citations

University of Glasgow Registry, Faculty, and General Council Records

Leah Leneman, Elsie Inglis: Founder of Battlefield Hospitals for Women (Edinburgh: National Museums of Scotland c1998)