Sarah Rogers, University of Huddersfield The UKAHN Bulletin
Volume 8 (1) 2020

‘Maud as a young nurse’, Lafayette Studio, London, Date unknown, Private Collection, with permission.

An exhibition on the life and work of the inspirational World War 1 army matron Dame Emma ‘Maud’ McCarthy (1859 – 1949) ran from November 2019 until January 2020 at Oxford House, Bethnal Green, less than a mile from where Maud commenced her training at The London Hospital in 1891.

This was the first exhibition to feature Maud McCarthy and displayed previously unseen material about her family upbringing and life. Maud was born in Australia and emigrated to London in 1889. After training as a nurse, she worked as a sister at The London Hospital for several years. In December 1899, she volunteered for selection as one of six nurses selected to go as ‘Queen Alexandra’s nurses’ to the Second Anglo Boer War. Although it was hoped that Maud would return to the London, she remained in army nursing. She was Matron in Chief, British Expeditionary Force, France and Flanders during World War 1 and was responsible for the management of approximately 8000 nurses and VADs.

The exhibition was the result of a chance encounter at the National Gallery when two of Maud’s descendants, who were viewing her portrait, met and established their mutual interest in this extraordinary woman. This fascinating exhibition told Maud’s life story through a timeline of photographs and portraits, many previously unseen, from private collections and Australian Archives.

There are plans to stage this exhibition at other venues, both in the UK and abroad; if it happens it is well worth going to see. If anyone reading this is interested in helping the organisers to make their plans real, get in touch us using the Contact Us form on the UKAHN Bulletin website and we will pass on your message.