Ella Webb

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Isabella "Ella" Webb

Isabella Gertrude Amy Ovenden[1]

(1877-10-16)16 October 1877
Dublin, Ireland
Died24 August 1946(1946-08-24) (aged 68)
Known forFounded the Children's Sunshine Home
Medical career

Isabella Gertrude Amy "Ella" Webb MBE (née Ovenden) (16 October 1877 – 24 August 1946) was a pioneering Irish paediatrician and founder of the Children's Sunshine Home for Convalescents[2] (now LauraLynn Ireland Children's Hospice)[3] a convalescence home for children with life limiting diseases.[4]

Family and education[edit]

Born Isabella Gertrude Amy Ovenden[1] on 16 October 1877,[5] Webb was raised in Dublin, Ireland by her paternal uncle Charles Ovenden, the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, and his wife Isabella Mary Ovenden (née Robinson).[6] As a result of the contentious divorce and custody proceedings in New Zealand between Webb's biological parents, William Henry and Edith Ovenden, a judge placed Webb in the custody of her father's brother and his wife, Charles and Isabella Ovenden in Ireland.[7]

Webb attended Alexandra College, Dublin, later continuing her education in Queen's College, London and subsequently University of Göttingen, then entering the Catholic University of Ireland.[6] Webb was the first woman to attain the highest marks in the final medical examinations of the Royal University of Ireland, and graduating as an MD in 1906.[8]

Webb worked in Trinity College[6] until her marriage to George Webb, a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, in 1907.[5] They had two children, botanist D. A. Webb and Mary Ovenden Webb.[5]

Ella Webb died in 1946 at the age of 68.[9]


Following her marriage, Webb ran a private practice on Hatch Street.[6] During this time she also working as honorary medical officer to St Patrick's Dispensary for Women and Children, attended two baby clinics, lectured, and acted as an external examiner to the Department of Agriculture & Technical Instruction.

Webb was lady district superintendent in the Alexandra College St John Ambulance Brigade in Ireland from 1914, and was on duty during the Easter Rising.[6] During the conflict she set up an emergency hospital at the War Supply Depot, run by the Brigade in a building at 40 Merrion Square to deal with the wounded.[10] For her bravery during this time she was awarded the Order of St. John Life Saving Medal (Silver) and later made a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (1916),[11] and later awarded an MBE (1918).[6]

In 1918, Webb was appointed anaesthetist in Adelaide Hospital in Dublin, making her the first female member of staff.[12] Webb became focused on the treatment of childhood ailments, particularly those relating to poor diet and hygiene, reporting on the high mortality rate in children under one in Dublin.[13] Webb is recognised as originating the first formal role for medical social workers in Ireland, then known as almoners.[14]

In 1925 she founded the Children's Sunshine Home for Convalescents in Stillorgan, Dublin with help from Letitia and Naomi Overend.[15] The Home initially specialised in treating children with rickets.[16]

Webb was a physician in Saint Ultan's Children's Hospital, founded by Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen from 1929 to 1946.[5] She was elected fellow of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland, and was awarded MA (jure officii).[6]


The General Medicine and Cardiology ward in Adelaide Hospital is named in her honour.[12] Webb was also the subject of a portrait by Seán Keating at the Golden Jubilee of the Easter Rising Exhibition in 1966 at the National Gallery of Ireland.[17]


  • Hospital social service (1922)
  • Ten years work at the Children's Sunshine Home, Stillorgan (Ir. Jn. Med. Sc., no. 113 (May 1935), 225–9)
  • Maternity and child welfare in Dublin county borough (Dubl. Jn. Med. Sc., cxliv (August 1917), 86–97)


  1. ^ a b Kelly, Laura (2015), Irish Women in Medicine, c.1880s–1920s: Origins, Education and Careers, Oxford University Press, p. 56, ISBN 9781784992057
  2. ^ June, Cooper (2015), The Protestant Orphan Society and its social significance in Ireland 1828–1940, Oxford University Press, p. 213, ISBN 9781847799869
  3. ^ "Cpl Supports the Children's Sunshine Home and the LauraLynn Children's Hospice". CPL Healthcare. 24 February 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  4. ^ McCoole, Sinead (25 March 2016), "1916: Nursing the wounds of the Easter Rising", The Irish Times, retrieved 25 November 2016
  5. ^ a b c d Foley, Karen. "Earlscliffe Residents 1922 to 1930". The Robinson Garden at Earlscliffe, Baily, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Andrews, Helen. "Webb, Isabella ('Ella') Gertrude Amy". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  7. ^ Ovenden, Isabel Gertrude (30 June 1891). "Supreme Court Nisi Prius". New Zealand Press Volume XLV111 issue 7902 page 3.
  8. ^ Walsh, Brendan (2014). Knowing Their Place: The Intellectual Life of Women in the 19th Century. The History Press. ISBN 9780752498713.
  9. ^ "Death of Dr Ella Web". Sunday Independent. 25 August 1946. p. 6. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  10. ^ Irish Times report, described in the book "A 'Peculiar' Place: The Adelaide Hospital, Dublin 1839–1989”, David Mitchell, 1990, Blackwater Press, ISBN 0-905471-16-4
  11. ^ Bowser, Thekla (1917). The story of British V.A.D. work in the Great War (reprint ed.). London: Imperial War Museum. p. 164. ISBN 9781901623604.
  12. ^ a b AMNCH. "AMNCH Wards". Adelaide and Meath Hospital Dublin. Archived from the original on 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  13. ^ Lawson, William (1917). "Infant Mortality and the Notification of Birth Acts, 1907, 1915" (PDF). Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  14. ^ Kearney, Noreen; Skehill, Caroline (2005). Social Work in Ireland: Historical Perspectives. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration. p. 166. ISBN 9781904541233.
  15. ^ Larkin, Bernadette. "The Overend Women". Women's Museum of Ireland. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  16. ^ LauraLynn. "Our History". LauraLynn. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Sean Keating". The Kenny Gallery. Retrieved 19 February 2015.