The Hon. Ismay Fitzgerald

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The Hon. Ismay Fitzgerald [1]
The Hon. Ismay Fitzgerald, 62, (1870-1946) was the Irish born partner of Dr Louisa Martindale, describing her as “A broadminded and tolerant Irish Roman Catholic, keen on horse racing, with a legal mind, lovable, real Irish character, full of contradiction and charm.”  For someone like Louisa, in a tough profession, breaking the boundaries and making her mark in a male dominated world, Ismay was a great breath of fresh air. One of my Favourite Finds.


If not seated beside Louisa Martindale, which would have been a little unimaginative though doubtless enjoyable for her, she would have made a good conversationalist anywhere on the table of otherwise rather serious women. Elizabeth Sloan-Chesser looks rather formidable so that gives the choice of two out of Henrietta Franklin (whose house in Donegal she and Louisa had visited), Lady Moir or Evelyn Whyte. Perhaps a circle of Ismay, Franklin, Whyte, Martindale, Sloan-Chesser and Moir might have worked well.


Probably someone who was looking forward to a good evening. I would like to think that her “lovable Irish charm” may have lightened the debate amongst these heavy-hitters.


The Hon. Ismay Gertrude Mary FitzGerald was born in Ballybrack, Dublin, on 15th November 1870, the 4th of the 10 children of Irish Baron John David FitzGerald of Kilmarnock (1816 – 1889) and the Hon. Mary Matilda Southwell (1835 – 1910) daughter of the fourth Viscount Southwell.   Her father also had three children by his first wife.

Ismay was the partner and lover of Dr Louisa Martindale who wrote in her autobiography: “She was, I thought, very unusual looking and beautiful …. I invited her to come to me for a fortnight, with the result that she stayed thirty five years.”[2] Louisa devoted a chapter in her memoirs to Ismay, the main source  of information on Ismay’s life. They met at a dinner party in 1910 and Louisa broke her rule by becoming friends with a patient. After Ismay’s mother had died she became ill and Louisa invited her to come and stay in Brighton: “I quickly furnished one of my empty rooms…. Bought an iron bedstead for 19s, a mattress for the same ….a very primitive red carpet… white paper with pink apple blossom….she found it lovely”. Ismay was listed as a resident patient at the house in the 1911 census. Louisa describes her as a broadminded and tolerant Irish Roman Catholic, keen on horse racing, with a legal mind (her father was a barrister), lovable, real Irish character, full of contradiction and charm.


Ismay and Louisa were together until Ismay’s death on 26th July 1946, shortly after they had moved from Brighton to St John’s Wood. In 1934 she was also listed at Flat 3, 25 Manchester Square, W1. Louisa also recalled that they had both visited Mr and The Hon. Mrs Franklin at their house Glenalla, in Donegal – and perhaps fittingly were seated on this table together. A Requiem Mass was held for Ismay at the Church of St Thomas More, Maresfield Gardens, Swiss Cottage.[3] The Hon. Mrs Southwell Fitzgerald was living at Maresfield Gardens in 1935, perhaps a sister-in-law.


[1] From Judith Middleton, History of Women’s Lives in Hove and Portslade, Casemate Publishers, 30 Oct 2018

[2] Emily Hamer (1999), Keeping their fingers on the pulse: lesbian doctors in Britain 1890 – 1950, Chapter 7 in Themes in Sexuality, Franz Eder, Gert Hekma, Lesley A. Hall (eds), Manchester University Press, 1999, p142, accessed online 11th January 2018

[3] The Times, 29.7.1946 p5

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