Blair-Bell 5: Professional correspondence during the 1920s

This post covers the end of the first phase in the cataloguing of the papers of Professor Blair-Bell – that is, an overhaul of the existing descriptions to papers already made available. These last 36 folders of material can all be categorized as ‘professional correspondence’, and overwhelmingly pertain to the dates 1920 to 1922.

The files of correspondence relate to Blair-Bell’s private practice at Rodney Street and as Director of the Liverpool Medical Research Organisation, and as such are a great indication of the extent of his private practice, which should be put into the context of his wider activities of practice at the Liverpool Infirmary, his role as Professor of Midwifery at the University, his position within the professional network of the specialty of obstetrics and gynaecology (in particular as founder of the Gynaecological Visiting Society), and his interests in the treatment of cancer. Copies of letters to medics in the north of England, in reply to the referral of patients to him, give details of patients’ symptoms and treatments, and include valuable comments on the diagnosis of gynaecological problems and their treatment in the early part of the twentieth century. The files also contain important social comments on the pre-NHS medical service – particularly seen in the discussion of fees, an example of which is in a letter of 1920 in which Blair-Bell has a lively discussion about ‘these working class people…who are making very big incomes’ taking up a place in the Royal Infirmary after refusing to pay his fee for an operation and recuperation in his clinic (S1/44).

Other highlights of these files are the references to the work of the Liverpool Medical Research Organisation, with agenda papers for meetings (S1/40) between 1928 and 1929, and other administrative papers, and also to Blair-Bell’s role as advisor to the Liverpool and District Trained Midwives’ Association for approval of a syllabus of lectures for 1923. The latter is all the more important for showing the relationship between obstetricians and midwives at this time, building on the foundation of support given by leading obstetricians such as Sir Francis Champneys in the passing of the Midwives Act in 1902.

Copyright of the RCOG
Syllabus of lectures for midwives, 1923 (Archive Reference: S1/45)

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