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Scharlieb, Dame Mary (1845-1930) and her son Herbert J Scharlieb (later Shirley) (1868-1943)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 GC/190
Held at: Wellcome Library
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Full title: Scharlieb, Dame Mary (1845-1930) and her son Herbert J Scharlieb (later Shirley) (1868-1943)
Date(s): 1884-1923
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 2 folders
Name of creator(s): Scharlieb | Dame | Mary Anne Dacomb | 1845-1930 | surgeon
Scharlieb | Herbert J | 1868-1943 |
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Mary Ann Dacomb Scharlieb (née Bird) was one of the first generation of British women doctors, from the first class of students at the London School of Medicine for Women. She was at that time already married and a mother, her husband being a barrister in Madras. Scharlieb's initial aim in acquiring a medical education (she had already obtained medical qualification at the Madras Medical School) was in order to alleviate the sufferings of purdah women in India who could not be treated by male doctors, by bringing them the benefits of modern western medicine in place of native midwives. Returning to London in 1887 on health grounds, she had a long and distinguished career, recognised as being an accomplished gynaecological surgeon, and took part in public life: for example, she sat on the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases 1913-1916 and was a pillar of the Social Purity movement. Her son Herbert also became a doctor, specialising in anaesthesia.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letters to Mary Scharlieb, and testimonials about her, 1890-1912, [n.d.], and 3 letters from her, 1909-1923, on medical, philanthropic, political (women's suffrage) and personal matters. The testimonials are from Sir Frederick Treves, Sir James Paget, and Henry Acland, and correspondents include Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Dorothea Beale, Mary Kingsley, Sarah Grand, Michael Foster, Lord Roberts, and Philip Gibbs. The Herbert Scharlieb items consist mainly of testimonials when applying for the post of Assistant Anaesthetist at the Dental Hospital, 1901, including from J Rose Bradford, H Charlton Bastian, Rickman J Godlee, and Victor Horsley, but there is also a letter to him from his mother while in Madras, 1884, and one from Marcus Beck about the University College Athletic Fund, 1892.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

GC/190/1 Dame Mary Scharlieb: letters to and from, and testimonials, 1890-1923 GC/190/2 Herbert Scharlieb, later Shirley: letters to, and testimonials, 1884-1901.

Conditions governing access:

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

Hard-copy list available in Wellcome Library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

A small group of letters and testimonials of Mary Scharlieb and of her son Herbert Scharlieb (later Shirley), of unknown provenance, was purchased from Winifred A Myers (Autographs) Ltd in December 1995. 2 autograph letters formerly catalogued as MS 7578/41-42, were purchased from Stevens of London in April 1931, and E. Hall of Gravesend in early 1965, were transferred to this collection in September 2002, when an additional Scharlieb letter was purchased from Neil Summersgill of Blackburn.

Allied Materials

Related material:

In the Wellcome Library: Further material on the Scharlieb family may be found in the Sharpey-Schafer papers, PP/ESS: Edward Schafer taught physiology at the London School of Medicine for Women, and the families were friends, Scharlieb's children being fostered by the Schafers on her return to Madras. Some material, particularly concerning Scharlieb's later career, can be found among the archives of the Medical Women's Federation, SA/MWF. She was also involved with the National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases (later the British Social Hygiene Council), SA/BSH.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Mar 2009.

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