RAMC

Lady Doctors of the Malta Garrison
Rutherfurd Margaret Elizabeth

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63 Dr Margaret Elizabeth Rutherfurd
MB ChB (Glas 1910) 18 Oct 1884 – ?

Introduction

In May 1916, Dr Louisa Aldrich-Blake, Surgeon at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and Dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, approached all the women on the Medical Register asking them to say if they would be willing to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps. From the replies received, 48 lady doctors were enrolled. The first 22 medical women embarked for Malta on 2 August 1916; another 16 lady doctors embarked on the Hospital Ship (H.S.) Gloucester Castle on 12 August 1916.

The Director General Army Medical Services, Sir Alfred Keogh, was responsible for employing medical women and for dealing with illnesses among them. Women doctors, also referred to as lady doctors, were classed as civilian surgeons attached to the RAMC. Women serving as full time doctors in the Army and doing precisely the same work as their male colleagues had neither military rank nor status, but received the same pay, rations, travelling allowances and gratuity as temporary commissioned male officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. A uniform was not introduced until after April 1918. This was similar in appearance to that worn by the Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps (QMAAC) but with an RAMC badge on both lapels.

In October 1916, on hearing from the War Office that fifty more medical women were needed for service with the RAMC in English hospitals, Aldrich-Blake again negotiated with all the women who had qualified in the preceding ten years, and secured the requisite number in a very short time. On 20 October 1916, eleven medical women embarked on H.S. Britannic for Malta.

The casualties from operations in Gallipoli (25 April 1915 – 9 January 1916), and Salonica (October 1915 – 30 September 1918), were initially treated in Malta and Egypt, but in 1917, submarine attacks on hospital ships made it unsafe to evacuate from Salonica and five General Hospitals, Nos 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65, mobilized in Malta for service in Salonica to which the medical women were attached.

Between August 1916 and July 1917, eighty two lady doctors served in war hospitals in Malta. They worked alongside their RAMC colleagues and carried out all but administrative duties. Their assistance was very highly appreciated. Their work was recognized in the King's Birthday Honours list of June 1918 when Dr Barbara Martin Cunningham MB ChB, Military Hospital Mtarfa, Mrs Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater MB BS, in charge of Military Families Staff and Department Malta and Miss May Thorne MD, in charge of Sisters' Hospital and Staff Department Malta, were awarded the Order of the British Empire for services rendered during the war.

Service Record — Margaret Elizabeth Rutherfurd

Dr Margaret Elizabeth Rutherfurd graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1910. She held the appointments of Assistant Medical Officer Govan Parish School Board, Resident Medical Officer Smithston Poor House and Asylum Greenock Renfrewshire and House Surgeon Royal Samaritan Hospital Glasgow.

1912 Resident at the Smithston Asylum Greenock Renfrewshire. Appointed member of the British Medical Association (Glasgow and West of Scotland Branch) during the 16 August to 31 December 1912 quarter.

On the outbreak of the Great War she became a junior surgeon in France.

July 1916 Dr M. E. Rutherfurd was contracted to work for 12 months as a Civilian Surgeon attached to the RAMC. Her salary was 24 shillings a day, including allowances, but excluding duty transport. A gratuity of £60 was awarded at the end of the contract, provided employment had not been terminated for misconduct. Most of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

Malta 18 Oct 1916 Ordered to embark in the Hospital Ship Britannic on 20 October for Malta and Egypt, trans shipping at Mudros.

1 June 1917 Embarked for Salonica.

1 June 1917–23 Jan 1919 On duty at Salonica.

24 Jan 1919 – 19 May 1919 On duty with No 4 Southern General Hospital (Southern Command).

19 May 1919 Ceased duty.

Medical Directory 1923 lists her address as Jesmond, Renfrewshire.

Bibliography

  • No 63 Army Book 82. Record of Special Reserve Officer's Service (Records of 132 Lady Doctors).
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  • Macpherson W. G., 1921. History of The Great War, Medical Services General History, Vol I, Chap XIII, The Medical Services in the Mediterranean Garrison pp. 235-248. HMSO London.
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  • SA/MWF/CI 59. Medical Women Federation, (Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine). Status of medical women under the War Office.
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  • Reports of Societies. Womens' service in Malta with the RAMC. Br Med J (1919); 2 : 634, (Published 15 November 1919).
  • The Medical Directory 1923, 79th Issue. London J. & A. Churchill.
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  • Mann A. J., 1920 The Salonica Front A and C Black Ltd London.
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  • Rutherfurd Margaret E., Three generations on inherited dental defect. Br Med J (1931); 2 : 9, (Published 4 July 1931).
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