Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mary Ann Vousden - Sister Marian

The Biographical Directory of Anglican Clergy can be found online at It is a database of biographical information on clergy and deaconesses of the Anglican Church in New Zealand, Polynesia, and Melanesia.

This Directory has been compiled by the Reverend Michael Blain, with the assistance of many volunteers, librarians and archivists. He welcomes corrections and additions, together with the source of the amended information and we have been in contact over one of the entries - Mary Ann Vousden.

Mary Ann trained as a nurse and whilst working at the Marylebone Infirmary in 1890 she was persuaded by Frances Torlesse, whose mother's brother was Edward Gibbon Wakefield who formed the company that began the systematic colonisation of New Zealand, to move there. Sister Mary Ann consulted Florence Nightingale who wrote her a letter of good wishes for the venture.

Mary Ann left for New Zealand on 5 November 1890 and in January 1892 she was admitted as probationer Deaconess in the Anglican church in Christchurch. In 1893 she became matron of the Female Refuge, a charitable institution where she had the care of young women facing confinement. Marian Vousden, as she was now known, took her final vows and was professed as Sister in the Order of Deaconesses on 21 December 1900.

In 1905 Sister Marian was temporarily in charge of a Home for Inebriates. For another five years she continued working at a Samaritan Home, until in 1910 she fell ill and returned to England the following year. She died on 2 July 1920 in Hastings.

This Mary Ann Vousden is one of the more elusive people in the Anglican Directory, especially from a genealogical standpoint, which to be fair is not its main purpose . The Directory gives her birth date and place as 23 December 1839 in Goudhurst, Kent and lists a number of possible census entries, including for 1861, 1871 and 1881.

The suggested 1871 and 1881 entries are convincing. In 1871 she was a nurse maid in the family of James H Harrison, barrister notary of the peace and JP residing in Kensington, London and in 1881 she was a day-nurse at St. Thomas Hospital in Lambeth, Surrey. She was aged 26 and 36 years respectively, both suggesting a birth year of 1845 or thereabouts. Her birth place is given as Goudhurst in both censuses. Mary Ann died in 1920 at the age of 75 years, which also points to a birth in about 1845.

However, the suggested 1861 census entry, of a 6 year old Mary Ann, daughter of John and Jane Vousden in Goudhurst, is not so convincing. This age is not consistent with a birth in 1839 nor with the age of the woman in Kensington and Lambeth in 10 and 20 years time. Moreover, the 1839 birth date is at odds with these two census records.

There is another discrepancy in the Directory's biographical detail. It says that she nursed in the Crimea War with Florence Nightingale, and the source for this statement may be Ruth Fry's Centennial History of the Community of the Sacred Name, an account of the Anglican religious order in Christchurch to which Sister Marian belonged.

Florence Nightingale left England for Turkey on 21 October 1854 with 38 volunteer Roman Catholic and Anglican sisters and lay nurses, arriving early in November 1854, and she returned to Britain on 7 August 1857. In 1860, with a public fund raised in tribute to her services in the Crimea, Nightingale founded the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses at Saint Thomas’s Hospital in London. The opening of this school marked the beginning of professional education in nursing.

Mary Ann Vousden was working at St. Thomas's in the 1881 census. The problem is that it is not credible that she could have nursed in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale, because she was only a child at the time. It is possible, however, that she might have known Nightingale from her time at St. Thomas's.

As well as my interest in Sister Marian as a Vousden, there is another family interest for me in this story. Frances Torlesse, who persuaded her to go to New Zealand, was a niece of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, whose son Daniel married Angela Attwood, whose father Thomas was the first Member of Parliament for Birmingham, England's second city. Angela is my third cousin four times removed, that is, her 2 x great grandparents George and Mary Attwood are my 6 x great grandparents.

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At 3:54 am, Blogger mary anne said...

I am Mary Anne Vousden. 1951
My father is Joseph Charles
His father was Charles
His father married a "Grace" (W.R.)
Do you know if it is true that the daughter of one of the Graces

At 9:58 pm, Blogger Nigel Brown said...

Mary Anne,

Your comment seems to finish in mid-sentence so it is not clear what is your question. Please contact me by e-mail via web site, accessible from Blog.



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