She was born in Rochdale and after an elementary education went to work in a woolen mill, after which she was apprenticed to her father, a draper based in Yorkshire Street. By 1861 she was running the family business, which was then called "Ingham's Caps and Confectionery". She was known locally for her charitable work.
Her father died in 1865 and, after receiving advice and encouragement from a Franciscan priest, she started a small religious and charitable organisation of women in 1871. She became a lay member of the Franciscan order in 1872. As the community grew, she opened a second shop on nearby John Street.
In 1878, Herbert Vaughan, then Bishop of Salford, suggested that Ingham's group take on domestic duties at St Joseph's Foreign Missionary College, in Mill Hill, London. Although some of the women preferred to continue with their local welfare work, the shops were sold and the community moved to London.
In 1883 Ingham and eleven of her congregation took temporary vows, and her congregation became established as the "Sisters of St. Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions". In 1884 she took her full vows. She was given the name "Mother Mary Francis". In 1885 five of the sisters went as missionaries to Borneo and Kenya.
- O'Brien, Susan (2004), Ingham, Alice (1830–1890), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, retrieved 2009-10-17 (library card access)
- St. Joseph's Society for Foreign Missions, Catholic Encyclopedia, archived from the original on 29 October 2009, retrieved 2009-10-17
- The Rescue Sisters, Mill Hill Missionaries, retrieved 2009-10-17