Who was the first British woman president of the British Medical Association?

JOSEPHINE BARNES 1912 – 1999

Leading obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Josephine Barnes crowned an illustrious medical career when, in 1979, she was appointed as the 139th President of the British Medical Association.

Interviewed in 1983, Dr Barnes told TV presenter Joan Bakewell that she had always wanted to be a doctor from a very young age but that admittance for a woman into medical school in the nineteen thirties was difficult but she had secured a place at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and University College Hospital, London.

From the start of her career she aimed to be a consultant and achieved this at Charing Cross Hospital in London when she was appointed the first consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the hospital in 1954.

Josephine had three children and continued to work until the day each was born, returning to work within two weeks of the births.

She commented that time off work was greatly disadvantageous to a successful career!

Josephine was determined to improve the lives of women and their babies campaigning for abortion rights, contraception and cancer treatment as well as women’s rights in general.

She was awarded a DBE and became Dame Josephine Barnes in 1974.

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