Obituaries

Josephine BarnesAlan Humphrey BarkerVictor Meir DellalHock Hoo EeJohn Rushworth HoldenCharles Cotton KennedyGeorge KrasnerGeorge Kenneth LaxtonJames Brian Bonella RiddellMichael Edward SnellNualla Briggs (née Sommerville)

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.320.7230.317 (Published 29 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:317

Josephine Barnes


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(Credit: NICK SINCLAIR)

Obstetrician and gynaecologist and first woman president of the BMA (b Norfolk 1912; q University College Hospital 1937; FRCOG, FRCS; DBE), d 28 December 1999. A determined advocate of women's health care, she had Yorkshire blood. Her mother was a gifted organist and her father a Methodist minister, and her stiffest test, at 13, was convincing them that she wanted to be a doctor. At Oxford she gained a blue for hockey and sang in the Bach Choir. She gave up hockey at 50 and choral singing at 86. As a clinical student she decided to become a consultant in a London teaching hospital, which meant breaching the male domination. She prepared by becoming “probably the most examined student in Britain—a typically modest reference to the MRCP, FRCS, MRCOG, and MD that she had gained by 1941, while training in obstetrics during the blitz. Even so there were “many applications and many refusals” before, at 42, she became the first woman consultant at Charing Cross Hospital. She was proud of being the first FRCOG to give birth. As a young consultant she had a reputation for punctuality, driving around London in a sports car.

Dame Josephine worked at the women only Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital until she retired in 1977 and later helped to save it from closure, even joining a protest march to Downing Street. Her committee responsibilities grew. She was a member of the Lane committee on the working of the Abortion Act, the Royal Commission on Medical Education, and the Warnock committee on in vitro fertilisation. For 21 years she was a council member of the Medical Defence Union, and her written reports were models of conciseness. She was an examiner for universities in the United Kingdom, the West Indies, Nigeria, and Uganda. In …

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