Dick-Read, Grantly

  • Dick-Read, Grantly, 1890-1959
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Family correspondence and papers, letters from mothers and doctors, papers relating to dissemination of doctrine, personal material.



Physical description

69 boxes (note there is a box 34 and 34a), 3 oversize items


The following classes of material have been weeded: duplicates, ephemera, routine correspondence and financial records, proofs and corrections, and a collection of dictaphone tapes which were discovered to be in a severely deteriorated condition.

Most of this collection was in considerable disorder and no original arrangement could be ascertained for much of the material (apart from the files of correspondence from mothers and doctors on natural childbirth). It has therefore been arranged in a way that it is hoped will make it accessible to the user. There is a small collection of personal and biographical items, including Dick-Read's writings on literary and philosophical subjects, which can be found in Section A. Items relating to his medical practice and research (this includes fields other than obstetrics) are to be found in Section B. Papers relating to the various means by which the doctrine of natural childbirth was disseminated are to be found in Section C: publications, film, broadcasts, lectures, courses, tours, press publicity, etc. Section D contains the public response to Dick-Read's teachings, with correspondence from all over the world from lay persons and doctors, from the mid 1930s up to his death. This is a particularly valuable source for the study of attitudes to childbirth and obstetric theories and practices during this period. Section E contains items on legal and business matters, including Dick Read's lawsuit against the South African Medical and Dental Council for refusing to register him. Section F contains various items, published and unpublished, by other hands, mainly but not exclusively on natural childbirth or related topics.

There are some gaps in these papers, which can perhaps be accounted for by the number of moves they must have undergone in the course of Dick-Read's career.


A Personal and biographical, 1905-1960

B Medical, 1909-1958

C Publishing, Press, Lectures, Films, Tours, etc., 1932-1962

D Natural Childbirth Correspondence, 1932-1969

E Legal , Financial and Business Matters, 1923-1958

F Works by Others, 1912-1971

G Additional Papers From Family, c.1906-1950s

Acquisition note

These papers were given to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre in 1981 by Dick-Read's widow Jessica Bennett, via Laurence Pollinger Ltd, his literary executors. The papers had been in storage for some 20-odd years. A preliminary sifting of the material took place at the warehouse where the papers were stored. A few further items were received directly from Lawrence Pollinger Ltd. Some additional personal material was received from the children of his first marriage to Dorothea ('Thea') Cannon in April 1996, through the good offices of Professor Mary Thomas.

Biographical note

Grantly Dick Read is primarily famous for his work as a propagandist for 'natural childbirth'. This is the belief that in all but a small minority of cases labour is a normal physiological event, which in the case of properly instructed women can be carried out with a minimum of obstetric intervention. It includes the methods by which women can be trained to conduct labour as a conscious participant rather than a drugged patient. Dick Read's teachings were a matter of some controversy among the medical profession, as he was not a qualified obstetrician and even after his teachings had become widespread and his methods employed, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists refused to admit him to membership. However he gained considerable support from among women themselves.

For further biographical details see Dictionary of National Biography 1950-1960, Who Was Who Vol V, obituaries in the British Medical Journal and Lancet - see PP/GDR/A.37-39 for obituaries generally. There was a biography of Dick Read published in 1957: A Noyes Thomas, Doctor Courageous - The Story of Doctor Grantly Dick Read (Heinemann).

1890 Jan 26 Birth of GDR, 6th child of Robert John Read and his wife Fanny Maria

Educated: Bishop's Stortford College

St John's College Cambridge

London Hospital

1914 Qualifies BCh

Joins Royal Army Medical Corps on outbreak of war

1917 Deputy Assistant Director, Medical Service, Indian Cavalry Corps

c.1918 Demonstrator in Pathology, University of Cambridge

1919 On resident staff, London Hospital

1920 First (unpublished) book on natural childbirth

Receives degree of MD (Cantab) for thesis on 'Bacteriology of Malignant Endocarditis'

1921 Marries Dorothea ('Thea') Cannon

1923 Joins a general practice partnership in Woking

1923-1948 Practices in Woking and Harley Street

1926 Complaint to General Medical Council that the practice was advertising

1933 Natural Childbirth published by Heinemann (Medical) with GDR contributing to costs

1934 Woking partnership dissolved. GDR sets up a private clinic there on his own

1942 Publication of Revelation of Childbirth (known as Childbirth without Fear in USA and later UK editions)

1943 Motherhood in the Postwar World

1947 Lecture tour on natural childbirth in the USA

Birth of a Child

1948 Emigrates to South Africa

1948-1953 Medical practice in South Africa

1949 Lawsuit against the South African Medical and Dental Council over their refusal to register him

1950 Introduction to Motherhood

1952 Marriage dissolved; marries Jessica Bennett

1953 Films labours of his last 4 patients in South Africa

Safari to investigate childbirth among non-westernised Africans

1954 Return to England. No longer in practice; devotes time to writing and lecturing on natural childbirth

1955 Antenatal Illustrated

1956 No Time for Fear

Papal Encyclical on the moral and spiritual validity of natural childbirth teachings

Release of film Childbirth without Fear

Argo records release long playing record, Childbirth without fear, of a labour conducted on Dick Read's principles

Dick Read granted an audience by the Pope and presented with the Silver Papal Medal

1957 Natural Childbirth Association (later National Childbirth Trust) of the UK set up

Excerpt from film shown on BBC television

Publication of biography Doctor Courageous by A Noyes Thomas

1957-1958 Extensive lecture tour of USA and Canada

1959 June 11 Dies in Norfolk

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

A number of Dick-Read's works are held by the Library. A bibliography of Dick-Read's work can be found as an appendix to the hard-copy catalogue in the Wellcome Library.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT, previously known as the Natural Childbirth Trust) archive is held at Wellcome Collection, which was formed based on the teachings of Grantly Dick-Read. See the NCT archive catalogue for more details.

At other repositories:

A copy of his film Childbirth Without Fear is held by the National Film Archive.

Copyright note

Literary executor: Laurence Pollinger Ltd, 18 Maddox Street, Mayfair, London W1R 0EU

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.


The catalogue is available on microfiche via the National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS).

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Accession number

  • 101
  • 107
  • 630