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WILBERFORCE, Octavia (1888-1963)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 7OCW
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: WILBERFORCE, Octavia (1888-1963)
Date(s): 1880-1969
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 0.5 A box
Name of creator(s): Wilberforce | Octavia Margaret | 1888-1963 | physician
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Octavia Margaret Wilberforce (1888-1963) was born in Lavington in Sussex on 8 Jan 1888, the daughter of Reginald and Anna Wilberforce who was granddaughter of William Wilberforce. In Jul 1909, the young women had become friends with Elizabeth Robins, the suffrage campaigner who would become her companion for a number of years. When a maid became ill in 1910, it was suggested that she took her to see Louisa Martindale, one of the doctors at Brighton County Hospital. The meeting influenced her decision to become a doctor herself, a step that was opposed by her parents. Her father arranged for her instead to marry Charles Buxton, the eldest son of Lord Buxton. Octavia refused and was struck from his will but Robins offered to help fund the course, as did Lord Buxton. In 1913 Wilberforce entered the London School of Medicine after studying privately for the entrance examinations, later moving to Dublin to continue the work. She returned to London and treated British casualties at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington until the end of the war. After this Wilberforce returned to Brighton and opened a medical practice there at Montpelier Crescent. Additionally, she became active in the campaign run by Elizabeth Robins and Dr Louisa Martindale to install a new women's hospital in Brighton that would be named the New Sussex Hospital. She was one of three visiting doctors before later being appointed the hospital's head physician. She, Elizabeth Robins and Marjorie Hubert also helped set up a convalescent home at Backsettown, Henfield, in Robins's country home for overworked professional women in 1927. During the Second World War, she came to know Leonard and Virginia Woolf and was asked for medical advice during the writer's last illness. Octavia Wilberforce officially retired from the New Sussex Hospital in 1954, but she continued to work on Sussex County Council and at Backsettown until her death in 1963.


Scope and content/abstract:

The archive consists of a bound typescript autobiography (c 1952), correspondence (1918-1920), copies of papers written by Wilberforce (1928-c 1960), photographs (c 1885-1960), memorials and an obituary.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated to The Fawcett Library by The Backsettown Trustees in two accessions during 1983, with an accrual in 2007.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Wilberforce's correspondence with Virginia Woolf (1940-41) and Leonard Woolf (1941-63) is held by Sussex University Library Special Collections (Ref. : SxMs 13 and SxMs 18).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Finding aid created by export from CALM v7.2.14 Archives Hub EAD2002. Edited for AIM25 by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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