Souvenir ring Red Cross 1914-1917 : Matron F MacDowell, 92 Surgical Hospital Podgaetz
ID numberRELAWM13552.002
Collection typeHeraldry
TitleSouvenir ring Red Cross 1914-1917 : Matron F MacDowell, 92 Surgical Hospital Podgaetz
Object typeHeraldry
Place madeRussia
Date madec 1917
Physical descriptionAluminium
DescriptionHandmade aluminium ring with a red cross on the front. The cross has a black dot above the verticle bar and has two black dots, one on either side of the verticle bar, underneath the horizontal bar. One side of the cross is engraved '1914' and the other '1917'. There is an engraved pattern on the band.
SummaryHandmade souvenir ring owned by Matron Florence MacDowell, possibly made in Russia. Florence MacDowell trained as a nurse at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Vic and the Queens Hospital in Adelaide, SA. She later opened her own hospital called 'Windarra' at Toorak, Vic. She moved abroad and was staying on the Island of Elba in Tuscany when war broke out. She made her way to England where she joined the British Red Cross.

In 1915 she worked as a Sister in their hospital at Vranatzka Banya in Serbia. In late 1915 and early 1916 the Serbian forces were overrun. Sister MacDowell evacuated Serbia and eventually made her way back to England. There she joined the Millicent Fawcett Union. Millicent Fawcett was a suffragette and President of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). With the support of friends and supporters the NUWSS raised funds to help sick and homeless refugee women in Russia.

Through 1916 and 1917 they opened hospitals in Russia, including an infectious hospital in Volhynia province, almost 100 kilometres behind the Galician Front. The 52nd Epidemic Hospital had 80 bed and was established in June 1916 in a huge building in the town of Zaleschiki. MacDowell became the Matron of this hospital. The beds were constantly in use with patients suffering from scarlet fever, erysipelas, dysentery and other infection diseases.

Late in 1916 cases of smallpox were discovered in the area and a program of vaccination began. They also established a smaller hospital for smallpox patients in the hope these early measures could ward off a serious outbreak of smallpox. MacDowell later became the Matron of the 92nd Surgical Hospital at Podgaetz on the Galician Front. In July 1917 when the Germans broke through the front line, the Russians began a disorganised retreat from Galicia. The Medical Unit staff at Podgaetz were evacuated by Commander Locker Sampson of the British Armoured Car Division. After leaving Russia, Matron MacDowell returned to London and was selected, along with two Army sisters to go with the British Armoured Car Division to Persia and Afghanistan, but War Office regulations forbade their going.

She remained in London and worked for the Canadian Government as Investigator for the British Branch of the Board of Pensions Commissions. After the branch closed she worked for Australia House doing the same work. She later lived in Canada for a time, before returning to Australia for a period. She then moved to England again, working for the children's charity Barnados. She returned to Australia for family reasons where she took up social work with the Charity Organisation Society for a few years.

She then worked for the Women's Employment Committee as Secretary and as Government Registrar for the Sustenance Department. In 1929 she acted as Organising Secretary for the Australian Women's National League in Melbourne for six months. In addition she was a member of the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia; Council of Health Bureau at Anzac House for returned soldier's children; Women's Citizen League and the British Legion, British Serbian Units Branch. She was also an associate of the National Council of Women and Honorary Organiser of the Girl's Movement. Miss MacDowell died in Melbourne on 25 April 1939 after a long illness.