SISTER Dora, a pioneer of civilian nursing who changed the way the profession was seen, is to be the subject of a celebratory service.

Born in the isolated village of Hauxwell, near Leyburn, in 1832, Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison was the eleventh child of the Reverend Mark Pattison, Vicar of Hauxwell, and his wife, Jane, the daughter of the Mayor of Richmond.

Her father’s mental illness made the family somewhat dysfunctional and apart from reading, she was mostly denied the pleasures her contemporaries enjoyed.

In a curious paradox, Dorothy, who disliked schoolwork, along with her sisters opened and ran the village school. One dark day, without warning her father closed the school; it was quickly re-opened without the Pattison sisters who were now excluded from their only source of social contact.

Prompted by the Crimean War, Dorothy sought her father’s permission to volunteer as nurse. He naturally refused as this line of work was unimaginable for the daughter of a clergyman, being considered on a par with the work of a domestic servant.

A small bequest following her mother’s death gave Dorothy the chance to pursue a life of her own. Leaving Hauxwell forever she took a position as headmistress of a small school in Buckinghamshire.

Illness brought her back to the North of England; whilst recuperating at Coatham, near Redcar, she became interested in the work of the Christ Church Sisterhood, an order of religious observance and charity work.

Later joining the sisterhood, taking the title Sister Dora, she initially worked at the North Ormesby Hospital in Cleveland, then in 1863, at the Walsall Cottage Hospital.

Met with hostility and suspicion as a woman, Dora had much to prove. With a population of 40,000, no water or sanitation, but 325 pubs, Walsall was a rough town. By a combination of hard work and determination, Sister Dora won over local support.

Nine years later with Dora in charge, women were taken on at the hospital as unpaid trainees. Recruits from all over the country, became her disciples, subsequently running their own hospitals. Often working up to 16 hours a day and attending more than 12,000 patients annually. After developing breast cancer, Sister Dora died on Christmas Eve 1878.

Her public statue in Walsall was the first in in the country of a woman not of royal blood.

On her death Florence Nightingale paid Sister Dora the following tribute: “May every nurse, though not gifted with Sister Dora’s genius, grow in training and care of her patients, that none but may be better for her care, whether for life or death.”

The service is at Hauxwell Church on Thursday, January 16, and starts at 4.30pm by a short talk by Suzanne Stirke on Sister Dora’s early life in Hauxwell. The service takes place at 5pm followed by light refreshments.

Rosi Keatinge said: “As Sister Dora died from breast cancer, we really want to encourage anyone who has or is suffering from any form of cancer as well as other long term medical conditions to join us for this very special service.”