Born in 1842, Isabella Gilmore, the sister of William Morris, was a nurse at Guy’s Hospital in London and in 1886 was asked by Bishop Thorold of Rochester to pioneer deaconess work in his diocese. The bishop overcame her initial reluctance and together they planned for an Order of Deaconesses. She was made a deaconess in 1887, and a training house developed on the North Side, Clapham Common, later to be called Gilmore House in her memory. Isabella herself retired in 1906. During her nineteen years of service, she trained head deaconesses for at least seven other dioceses. At her memorial service, Dr Randall Davidson, the Archbishop of Canterbury, predicted that “Some day, those who know best will be able to trace much of the origin and root of the revival of the Deaconess Order to the life, work, example and words of Isabella Gilmore. For this let us give thanks: I feel sure it is most meet and right so to do.” She died in 1923.
- Adapted from Celebrating the Saints.
O God, by whose grace your servant Isabella Gilmore, kindled with the flame of your love, became a burning and a shining light in your Church: Grant that we also may be aflame with the spirit of love and discipline, and walk before you as children of light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Deaconess Elizabeth Robinson’s memories of Isabella Gilmore are published on the Project Canterbury website.
Isabella Gilmore is commemorated in the sanctoral calendar of the Church of England.