As I see it, Explore Your Archive week is as much about telling everyone about the amazing stories which have been discovered as well as those which still wait to be told, and here among the collections of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives, there have been two wonderful stories which are just crying out to be shared!
The first relates to a story already shared on this blog back in November 2012, about a midwife, Eveland Hutchings, and her attempts to get the King’s Bounty for a mother she had recently delivered of triplets. Eveland worked as a midwife during the 1920s and was enrolled on the register of the Central Midwives Board in 1921. The collection of papers here at the RCOG feature photographs of her with the children she helped to deliver, together with a letter from the Privy Purse Office at Buckingham Palace, dated January 1926, referring to her application to get a £3 bounty for Mr and Mrs Stevenson of Ilkeston, to help them with the financial burden of having triplets. As a result of this blog, featuring the photograph of Eveland Hutchings with the Ilkeston triplets, the son and daughter of one of the triplets contacted the archive, having found this previously unseen photograph of their mother as a baby with the midwife who delivered her!
The second story is just as wonderful and also relates to a case of lost and found! In the absence of a full online catalogue, the RCOG and RCM have parts of their archive catalogue included on a national network of catalogues, the Archives Hub. It was the inclusion on the Hub of a special collection of papers relating to obstetrician Dr Walter Spitzer which reunited a family in New Zealand with the son of the obstetrician who saved their mother’s life! Dr Spitzer was a Czech obstetrician and gynaecologist who came to England at the outbreak of the Second World War under a refugee scheme. He subsequently found a position at Kingston Hospital, but his application for Membership of the RCOG was unsuccessful due to requirements of training in the UK. Eric Holman contacted the archive in May 2014 in great excitement:
‘…I have just had the most wonderful news from looking at your website. I have been searching for some years now for information on Dr Walter Spitzer who saved both my mother’s and my life in 1946 in Kingston County Hospital.’
Dr Spitzer attended Eric’s mother when the Harley Street surgeon responsible for the case had handed her over to him, having given up on the chances of her recovery after she suffered fits and an emergency Caesarean Section.
‘My mother told me Dr Spitzer had asked my parents if they would mind writing a testimonial of the expertise and care he provided so as to help get his medical credentials recognised in the UK…we were so happy to see his good work continued in England and that he spent many years at his chosen profession.’
Through the medium of the archive staff, Eric was put in touch with Walter Spitzer’s son, who lives in London and was responsible for donating the papers to the RCOG. The two went on to share stories and photographs, so adding another dimension to the records already held in the archive.