Collecting Nursing History 57
Mary Elizabeth Jefferys 1866-1908

Sue Barker
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 Mary Elizabeth Jefferys 1866-1908



Family Background

Mary was born on 15th February 1866 at Cardwell House, Dawsmere,  Lincolnshire, the fenland farm of her parents Francis and Ann Jefferys. Francis farmed 380 acres on the Cardwell estate, employing 8 men and 1 boy. 

(When farming ceased at Cardwell the house became a nursing home, but since 2013 it has been a private residence).

Mary had 2 bothers and 4 sisters. Lucy was the only one of the 7 siblings to get married. Lucy married Thomas Shelton in 1910 and they moved to Leicester.

Mary's brother John took over the running of the farm as her father became older. However he died in 1902 age 38, followed by her father age 66, in 1904. The remaining family therefore had to leave the farm. By this time Mary was established in her nursing career and had lived away from home for over a decade. 

In 1911 Mary's mother Ann, sister Sarah and brother Ambrose were living at 17 Craig Street Peterborough. Ann died in Peterborough in 1917 age 76.

This might have been a significant factor in the demise of Mary's brother Ambrose. Ambrose was admitted on 2 occasions to the Lincolnshire County Lunatic Asylum in Bracebridge Heath. The second admission began on 31st May 1917 and he died there age 35 on 12th August. His mother also died during the period July to September of that year. 

In 1911 Mary's sister Alice was working as a domestic help in Marylebone. She died on 7th January 1952 in Rush Court Nursing Home Wallingford Berks, age 83. Her sister Sarah was at the same nursing home and died there on 2nd July 1953 age 91.

Nursing Career 

On 28 Sept 1890 Mary began nurse training at Bristol General Hospital. She completed her training and left there in November 1896.

On 6th May 1897 she enlisted in Princess Christian's Royal Army Nursing Service Reserve (PCANSR), but by 12th Jan 1898 she was a 'Queen's Probationer', embarking on six months of training in Bloomsbury London, to become a district nurse.

After finishing her training on 12th July 1898 Mary sought employment in Consett County Durham.

On 2nd January 1899 her name appears in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencier, on a list of newly approved Queen's Nurses, her place of work given as Consett.

In 1901 Mary's name appears on the War Office National Roll. 

Mary worked as a Queen's Nurse in Consett from 12th August 1898 until 27th September 1905. The following day, on 28th September 1905, Mary boarded the SS Virginian at Liverpool Docks and sailed alone to Montreal Canada, arriving on 7th October.

In December 1905 she travelled to Seattle in possession of $50 and with no forwarding address. Later she travelled to New York and carried on working as a nurse.  She lived at 408 West 57th Street Manhattan and was joined there by her sister Ann in 1907. The apartment block was demolished and replaced by a new one in 1956.

In the early 1900s American hospitals employed only a few trained nurses, to supervise the mainly student nurse staff. Most nurses, on completing their training, went into 'private duty nursing'. This was the equivalent of someone today paying a carer to come in. This often did not provide regular employment or income, although some parts of Manhattan were quite affluent at the time. It is possible that, as a trained 'Queen's nurse', this is what Mary did in Manhattan. 

Between 1900 and 1945 the population of New York were at great risk of contracting TB and Mary would have been regularly exposed to this in the course of her work.

After only 3 years in her new career, Mary died in Manhattan on 18th May 1908, age 42, survived by her mother and 4 siblings . She was buried the following day at St Michael's Cemetery, Queens, New York. 

Mary's sister Ann also pursued a career in nursing. She trained at the London Hospital in 1905. She emigrated to New York in 1907, 2 years after Mary, travelling on the same ship. She also lived in Manhattan. Some time after 1913 Ann returned to live in the UK and the Nursing Register records her in 1921, living at an address in Llandaff, Glamorgan. Ann died age 67 at the Royal Infirmary Cardiff on 24th August 1943.

Copyright Sue Barker Schoolsofnursing 2017


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