May Margaret Stevenson OBE (1875-1922)

Surrey in the Great War Jenny Mukerji

May Margaret STEVENSON OBE (1875-1922)

Buried in Plot 31 of Brookwood Cemetery and in her family’s grave, lies May Margaret Stevenson OBE. May was born in Bournemouth on 9 May 1875 the daughter of Archibald Stevenson (1838-1877) and his wife Margaret Jane, nee Anderson (1841-1893). She was taken up to the family home in South Shields, near Newcastle and baptised in the Laygate Presbyterian Chapel on 20 June 1875. Her father was a partner in the Jarrow Chemical Works, manufacturing alkali and a partner in the Tyne Tug Company Limited in South Shields.

May was the youngest of her parents five surviving children and was only nineteen months old when her father died at sea on 19 January 1877. By 1881 her mother had moved her family of young children south to 58 Ladbroke Grove in Kensington, London. In 1891 May was living with her aunt Mary Adamson Marshall MD (1837-1910) in Upper Berkeley Street, Marylebone. Dr Marshall was one of the first women to qualify as a doctor and by 1891 she was entertaining female medical students at her home.

May went to Girton College (Ladies’ College), Cambridge and graduated with a Third Class BA and in 1901 she was living with her mother’s cousin Ruth Anderson in Clarincarde Gardens, Kensington, not far from her mother’s home. In 1911 she was living in her own accommodation in Wandsworth with her own housekeeper, Mary Troup. May was now on an Apprenticeship Committee and a Social Worker.

During the Great War, May served in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) until they became the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps (QMAAC) in April 1918 and continued with them. She was Administrator-in-Charge of their depot at Folkestone, Kent from March 1917 until May 1918. It was for her duties during the Great War that she received her OBE.

As May died on 5 February 1922 in the Mundesley Sanatorium in Norfolk, it can be safely assumed that she had suffered from tuberculosis. Her funeral service took place in one of the Brookwood Cemetery chapels on 8 February 1922 and she was buried in her mother’s grave and beside that of her aunt, Mary Adamson Marshall. Her death was announced in The Times on 7 February with a request that there should not be any flowers sent. Her name appears with that of her siblings on the kerbing of the grave.

Her photograph, in her uniform is in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. There was also a book published in London in 1922 In Memoriam May Margaret STEVENSON OBE.

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