Ethel BarrowBMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39260.628981.BE (Published 05 July 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:51
- Charles Frater
On Friday the 9 February 2007 Mrs Ethel Frater (née Barrow) died at the age of 102½. Born in Cheshire, she was the first English woman doctor to gain a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic; she lived and practised medicine in South Africa for 41 years and retired to England, where she became a fellow of the Linnaean Society.
Ethel Barrow was born in Lostock Gralam, Cheshire, on Saturday the 16 July 1904. Her father, William Barrow, who ran a removals and transport business, died five weeks after her birth. Her mother, Martha, a suffragette, did not hesitate to continue running the business and bring up four children in what was then very much a man's world. Ethel's memories of the days before the first world war were, until the last year of her life, clear, and she rejoiced in the fact that she was born an Edwardian. She remembered during the first world war taking the cart horses to the smithy on dark blacked-out winter nights with ice on the roads to have the spikes on their horseshoes sharpened. The beams of the searchlights looking for enemy Zeppelins above the Brunner Mond (now ICI) chemical works lit up the skies. She spoke fondly of stoking the boilers of Sentinel steam wagons with anthracite. During the influenza epidemic as a 14 year old she nursed her whole family, only succumbing in the third wave. Her mother, still bedridden with flu, allowed her to go to the village square when the bells started ringing at 11 o'clock on the 11 November 1918.
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