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Dame Josephine Barnes (1912–1999)

Dame Josephine Barnes


  • First woman to secure staff appointment at Charing Cross Hospital, London, 1954
  • First woman president of the British Medical Association, 1979


  • DBE in 1974

Remembered for:

  • Royal Commission on Medical Education (Todd Committee, 1965–1968)
  • Committee on the Working of the Abortion Act (Lane Committee, 1971–1973)
  • DHSS Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Warnock Committee, 1981–1984)

Dame Josephine Barnes became a Member of the RCOG in 1941 and was elevated to the Fellowship in 1952, followed by Honorary Fellowship in 1994. Dame Josephine was involved in many government committees, in particular relating to reproductive health and abortion, and the Archive records show her commitment to the work which she undertook.

Dame Josephine's letterDame Josephine's letter

Read Dame Josephine’s letters close-up here.

In the letter of 1972, she writes from hospital after suffering from pneumonia, eager to get back to the work of the Sub-committee on Analgesia, which was discussing the use and administration of anaesthetics in midwifery. In 1977 she was the first woman to be asked to deliver the J Y Simpson Oration, and in the record here she takes an interesting look back at medical developments in the mid-nineteenth century.

[Archive Reference: RCOG/C6/5 and RCOG/E10/12/3]

Elsewhere on the site

History of the RCOG
Information about the history of the College and the development of the specialty of obstetrics and gynaecology
About the College
Information about the RCOG’s current work to improve women’s health care worldwide