Ethel May Williams

Ethel May Williams was born in Cromer and in 1896, following studies at Newnham College, Cambridge and the London School of Medicine for Women, she moved to Newcastle setting up a general medical practice with Ethel Bentham.

Ethel May Williams was born in Cromer and in 1896, following studies at Newnham College, Cambridge and the London School of Medicine for Women, she moved to Newcastle setting up a general medical practice with Ethel Bentham. Her medical work with the disadvantaged of Newcastle and Gateshead fuelled her motivation for social reform and women's suffrage in order to alleviate the deprivation that she witnessed.

Ethel was President of the Newcastle and District Branch of the National Union of Women's Suffrage that aimed to achieve women's suffrage using lawful and peaceful methods. She took part in the 1907 London Mud March with over 3000 fellow suffragists as well as leading similar processions and rallies in Newcastle between 1908 and 1914.  Around the outbreak of the First World War she joined pacifist groups such as the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom becoming Newcastle Branch Secretary in 1934 and provided support for Tyneside's women workers. During the war, Ethel joined the Workers Educational Association (WEA) as a tutor setting up women's health courses all over the North East of England. After the war her activism centred on issues of health, social welfare education and international relations.

Ethel demonstrated what an impact a woman could make in a profession that had been almost exclusively male dominated. Shunned by male doctor colleagues at the beginning, she eventually became a respected figure in medical circles. She used her experience and position to campaign for improvements in the living and working conditions and educational opportunities of the poorest and most deprived residents of the city. She co-founded the Northern Women's Hospital in Jesmond, Newcastle in 1917 and helped set up mental health residential care in the Tyneside area.

Ethel retired to Stocksfield, Northumberland , became a magistrate and died in 1948 just as the NHS was created. She has left quite a legacy of achievement for other women to follow.

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