Thursday, 11 November 2010

Martha Beatrice Webb

Martha Beatrice Webb was a notable woman.

Born in Furness Vale in December 1863, she was educated privately at Broom Bank in Stockport. At a time when few women enjoyed a university education, Martha studied at Newnham College Cambridge for a tripos in natural science.

In 1890 she was appointed as assistant mistress at Edgbaston High School For Girls and taught there for the next ten years.

Martha was 38 in 1902 when she enrolled at the newly opened Birmingham Medical School, one of the first female students. Her education included training at the General Hospital and Queen's Hospital. Graduation as MB ChB was at Edinburgh followed in 1909 with MD. During this period she suffered a great deal of discrimination from both her male colleagues and patients.

Much of Martha's career was spent as a GP in Birmingham where she gained much influence in the medical profession.  She lectured at Birmingham University on personal hygiene and became medical officer to the Department of Education. Martha started the Women's University Club and the Women's Medical Society and in addition held posts with a number of medical committees and asscoiations.  Research work for the Ministry of Munitions led to the publication of two books "Health of Working Girls" and "On Keeping Well".  Webb was an active supporter of the BMA's campaign for equal rights.

There is no account of her private life and as her name never changed, she perhaps never married.

Martha Webb retired in 1932 and died in Birmingham in February 1951.

Her father Philip Henry Webb was born in Runcorn in March 1839.  He married Frances from Wrexham, seven years his senior and came to live in Furness Vale.  The 1861 census does not include the Webb family so they perhaps arrived shortly after.  Ten years later they were living at "Shirt's Row" which seemed to be a terrace of 6 houses.  Philip was a manufacturer of cotton yarns.  Martha at that time was 7 years old and her brother James Henry Philip, two years younger.  In 1891 the Webbs were living at Bank End where both Philip and his son were stone merchants.  Martha was already living in Birmingham.