University Years

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Mary's first year at University of Melbourne, studying Bachelor of Arts (BA). Pictured back row, second from the left. © Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga

Mary’s outstanding academic achievements earned her a University Exhibition, an invaluable cash scholarship. Pursuing her literary interests, Mary began studying for a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne in 1905 and at the end of her first year had obtained first class honours in English and History. However after a great deal of prayer and the gentle encouragement of her father, Mary switched over to the medical course and graduated in 1910 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

Soon thereafter, Mary was amongst a group of young Catholic medical students who found themselves at odds with teaching and medical practices destructive to human life. These students used to protest when doctors proposed to carry out treatment that was contrary to Natural Law.7 The students also approached their priests for help. In response, Archbishop Carr (the then Archbishop of Melbourne) published a booklet titled Infanticide in an effort to tackle their concerns. Mary Glowrey had written this booklet and it was indicative of another central theme that was to mark her life—that medicine is, before all else, to be placed at the service of human life and for Mary, this would find particular expression in her medical care of women and children.

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Mary in the emergency department at St.Vincent's Hospital, circa 1914-1916. She is pictured in the middle, wearing white, looking towards the camera. © Catholic Women’s League of Victoria and Wagga Wagga

In her fourth year of medicine, Mary joined St Vincent’s Hospital which had recently become a clinical school for students. Many years later she wrote: ‘I can never sufficiently express the gratitude I owe to St Vincent’s Hospital.’ Mary Glowrey had to complete her residency in New Zealand before returning to build her own successful private practice in Melbourne. She also worked at St Vincent’s Hospital and, the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. Mary lived at the hospital so that she could be available at night for emergencies. Her older sister, Lucy, had to keep replenishing Mary’s blankets and clothes as she was always giving them away to someone more needful than herself.8 By the time World War I had broken out, Mary had established a successful private practice at 58 Collins St but much of her time was taken up relieving for doctors who were in military service. Mary later had medical rooms at 82 Collins St.

At night time, she would care for women and babies in dire need in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond.9 She was usually accompanied by her older sister, Lucy, who recalled going with Mary for “protection”.

7. Glowrey, op. cit.
8. Swamikannu, op. cit., p 37.
9. Letter of Lucy Connellan to Monseigneur Reidy, 1958.