Margaret Ida Balfour, CBE, MD, CM, FRCOG (1866-1945)

  • Balfour, Margaret Ida, CBE, MD, CM, FRCOG (1866-1945)
1869-c. 2000s
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


This collection contains the numerous letters written by this eminent medical woman to members of her family during her long and distinguished career in India, 1892-1933: they reflect both her professional activities, the daily life of a woman doctor in India this period, and include comments on the general situation she found there, personalities she met, etc. There is also a little material relating to her family and background, and some personal and professional items.


1869-c. 2000s

Physical description

5 boxes 1 oversize folder


A. Balfour family memorabilia
B. Margaret Ida Balfour's letters to family members
C. Professional matters and personalia

Acquisition note

This collection was given to the library at Wellcome Collection by Dr Jean Hunter, and collected from Madeleine Holt, in July 2013

Biographical note

Margaret Ida Balfour was the daughter of Robert Balfour CA of Edinburgh. She qualified in medicine in 1891 and sailed for India in 1892, where she worked in Ludhiana, Nahan State and Patiala, and was then appointed assistant to the Inspector General of Civil Hospitals, Punjab, in 1914. In 1916 she became Chief Medical Officer of the recently formed Women's Medical Service, a post she held until 1924. She was also Secretary of the Countess of Dufferin Fund. Following her retirement she made several return visits to India in connection with her research on tropical anaemias with Dr Lucy Wills. Her book, co-authored with Ruth Young, The Work of Medical Women in India, was published in 1929 by Oxford University Press, with a foreword by Dame Mary Scharlieb. She was also one of the founders of the Overseas Association of the Medical Women's Federation. She was honorary archivist of the Federation. During the Second World War she played an active role as an ARP medical officer in London.

There is an extensive obituary in Medical Women's Federation Quarterly January 1946 and an entry in Sir John Peel, The lives of the fellows of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists: 1929-1969

Related material

Archives of the Medical Women's Federation, SA/MWF.

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Accession number

  • 1997