Huxley, Margaret Rachel (1855–1940), nursing pioneer, was born in Croydon, Surrey, England, sixth among eight children of William Thomas Huxley (eldest brother of T. H. Huxley, FRS), and his wife, Esther (née Hopkins). She was trained in St Bartholomew's Hospital, London, and her first appointment (1882) was as matron of Dublin's National Eye and Ear Infirmary located on Molesworth St. She was appointed on 11 March 1884 lady superintendent and matron of Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, Dublin, where she was responsible for nurse-training. She immediately changed the length of Dun's training programme from one year to three, added a final examination, and extended to two years the length of time a nurse needed to work in the hospital before receiving her diploma. In 1890 Huxley founded a nursing home in Lower Mount St., a facility that offered private medical and surgical care, and employed Dun's probationers. (She would later name it ‘Elpis’, Greek for hope). In 1893 she helped to create the Dublin Metropolitan Technical School for Nurses (DMTSN), which supplied instruction to both experienced and probationer nurses. The DMTSN, supported by Dublin's hospitals and nurse-training facilities, offered instruction that was often beyond what most hospitals supplied. Students were expected to pass an entrance examination, attend lectures given during three-month terms, and sit an examination at the conclusion of each term. In 1894 the DMTSN named Huxley its honorary secretary. After resigning from Dun's (1902), she continued her work with Elpis, as well as with the DMTSN. Sir Patrick Dun's board of governors eventually established an award to nurses in her name, and in 1912 made her the board's first woman member.
An early member of the British Nurses’ Association, she supported the creation of the International Council of Nurses in 1899, and in 1900 she was elected president of the Dublin Nurses’ Club, an organisation that sought to provide nurses with a place to hold business meetings. As a result of its increasing popularity and in order to broaden its membership, the Dublin Nurses’ Club changed its name (1904) to the Irish Nurses’ Association. One of its goals was to push for state registration of nurses. Huxley testified (1904) before a parliamentary select committee convened to consider state registration and the standardisation of nurse training.
The Irish Nurses’ Association became affiliated with the National Council of Trained Nurses of Great Britain and Ireland, and as its vice-president Huxley attended the 1909 meeting of the International Council of Nurses, to which new nursing councils from Europe and North America became affiliated. In 1913 the National Council of Trained Nurses of Great Britain and Ireland planned to hold its annual meeting in Dublin, and the Irish Nurses’ Association specifically chose Huxley as president in order for her to organise the event.
In 1915 the Dublin University Women's Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital appointed Huxley its matron. It opened its doors to those wounded in the first world war as well as in the 1916 Easter rising. Continuing her efforts to standardise nurse training, in 1917 Huxley became a member of the Irish Nursing Board. Under the Nurses Registration (Ireland) Act, 1919, a General Nursing Council was established, to which the chief secretary for Ireland appointed Huxley. Although she lost her seat on the council in 1923, she continued her work with nurse registration.
On 17 December 1927 the Margaret Huxley Public Utility Society (also known as the Cork Street Housing Scheme) held an opening ceremony for new housing in Dublin; the money for the scheme was generated by a donation from Huxley. The scheme originated with members of the unitarian church, St Stephen's Green. The ten houses, erected in the form of a crescent (subsequently named Huxley Crescent), included both back and front gardens, indoor plumbing, and hot/cold running water. Built as part of the effort to ameliorate the housing crisis in Dublin and designed for inner-city workers, they could be rented for £1 a week.
A pioneer in the standardisation of nurse training and qualification, Margaret Huxley was conferred by Dublin University with an honorary MA in 1928. She remained active in the nursing community until the time of her death, which occurred on 10 January 1940 at ‘Elpis’. After a funeral service in the unitarian church, St Stephen's Green, she was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery.