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

  • Scharlieb, Mary (Mary Ann Dacomb Bird), Dame, Bird (1845-1930)
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


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.



Physical description

2 files


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

Acquisition note

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

Biographical note

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.

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

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.

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Accession number

  • 607, 1082