Her father, a prominent Dundee solicitor, died when she was young. Mary Lily Walker cared for her mother until her death in 1883, when she returned to her studies, becoming one of University College’s first woman entrants, studying Latin, Maths, Biology and Chemistry – she was described as an excellent student.
As a young woman she became conscious of the appalling living conditions of the poor in the city. A group of professors at the University College founded the Dundee Social Union, and Mary Lily became one of its first and most enthusiastic members.
She wrote detailed official reports on health and housing, founded Grey Lodge Settlement as part of the University Settlement movement, helped Emily Thomson to start the Women’s Hospital [see footstep six], and transformed Dundee with baby clinics, health visitors, school dinners, children’s convalescent holidays, clubs for all (including after-school) groups. All this in less than 15 years.
Grey Lodge Settlement is in South George Street, just off the Hilltown and Walker House is behind it, where her plaque is situated.
Image of Milne’s Close, typical conditions in a Dundee tenement of the day. Copyright Dundee City Council, Archives.