Agnes Jones was born in Cambridge, England on the 10th of November 1832 to Irish immigrant parents. Her father worked in the army, which saw the family move around quite a bit. When she was a young girl, the Jones family moved to Mauritius where they would remain for 6 years. It was here that Agnes would develop her devotion to religion and her desire to help others.
When Agnes was 11 years old, the family moved again. This time to the parish of Fahan in Co. Donegal. 6 years later, in 1848, she was sent back to England to receive her education in Stratford-on-Avon, but she returned home to Ireland 2 years later when her father died. She and her mother moved to Dublin, where Agnes started a career as a teacher.
In 1853, 3 years after the death of her father, Agnes and her family were on holiday in Europe. Whilst away, Agnes visited the deaconess clinic in Kaiserswerth in Germany. She was very impressed by the work of the deaconesses. This was the same institution which Florence Nightingale also famously visited. When Agnes returned to Dublin, she set about caring for the injured and soon earned a reputation for her skill in dressing wounds. She was particularly good at treating burns. In 1860, Agnes returned to Kaiserswerth and began working at the deaconess clinic. As well as treating the wounded, she would read to and teach young children, becoming fluent in German herself in the process. She eventually became Superintendent of the Boys Hospital.
After her stint in Kaiserswerth, Agnes travelled to London where she undertook her formal training as a nurse. At this time she crossed the path of Florence Nightingale who commented on Agnes' skill and knowledge, and it was a recommendation from Nightingale herself that secured a position for Agnes in Liverpool.
On the 31st of March,1865, Agnes took up her new role as Superintendent of the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. Conditions at the Workhouse were appalling as over-crowding and poor hygiene made for a rapid spread of disease. Agnes worked tirelessly. Her day ran from 5:30 am to 11 pm with hardly time to pause in between. On top of her nursing and superintendent duties, Agnes also gave Bible readings at the Workhouse, first weekly, then daily. Some of the most dangerous characters in Liverpool were occupants of the Workhouse Infirmary, but Agnes treated them all with an equal compassion, and police officials remarked at her incredible ability to control even the most hardened criminals.
In 1868, an epidemic of typhus was sweeping through Liverpool. Sadly, Agnes was not spared the devastating effects of the disease. When one of her nurses became ill, Agnes gave up her own bed for the woman, but soon succumbed to the fever herself. Agnes Jones died on the 19th of February 1868. She was 35 years old. Her coffin was displayed in the main hall of the Workhouse Infirmary so that the patients could pay their respects. Her body was then brought home to Fahan where she was buried.
Agnes Jones is commemorated by a stained glass window in the Lady Chapel of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, and by a statue in the Oratory of St James' Cemetery, also in Liverpool.
Agnes Jones Statue