Dr Sr Mary Glowrey

Born in 1887, Dr Sr Glowrey was a gifted medical doctor and religious sister who was passionate about the role of women in medicine.

Honour Roll

After completing a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1910 from the University of Melbourne, Mary was the first woman to be granted a medical residency at the Christchurch Hospital in New Zealand, where she moved in 1911. Upon returning to Australia, Mary became an ear, nose and throat specialist, establishing a private practice in Collins Street and working as a physician to outpatients at St Vincent's Hospital.

From 1916 to 1919, Mary was the founding President of the Catholic Women's Social Guild (now known as the Catholic Women's League), an agency that sought to address social and economic inequality experienced by women. During this time, she continued her medical studies in the fields of gynaecology, obstetrics and ophthalmology, and also completed a Doctor of Medicine.

A profoundly religious woman, Mary was inspired to sail to India in 1920 to become a medical missionary and improve the health of Indian women. She played a critical role in the ongoing professional development of doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists in India, arranging conferences, training courses and a monthly publication that served to share knowledge.

In November 1920, she was received into the Order of the Sisters of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, becoming the first nun-doctor missionary. She sought special permission from Pope Pius XI to perform her medical mission work, as nuns were not permitted to practice as doctors. She took on the name of Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart.

Over the next 37 years, she worked in India as a doctor, medical educator and administrator. She established the St John's Medical College in Bangalore, and the Catholic Hospital Association of India in 1943, creating a revolutionary, integrated health care model supported by educational and social services.

Mary died in Bangalore on 5 May 1957.