Pioneers: Dame Hilda Lloyd, PRCOG 1949

This is no better way to end our series of posts on our College’s historic female members than to profile the College’s first female President, Dame Hilda Lloyd.

Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Hilda Lloyd was a woman ahead of her time. She qualified in 1916 at Birmingham Medical School during a time when almost half of all medical graduates were women due to the impact of the First World War.

Young Hilda Lloyd
Young Hilda Lloyd as a medical student at Birmingham during the First World War. Hilda is in the front row, second from our right, wearing a wrist watch. Credit: Professor Jonathan Reinarz.

She qualified as a surgeon in 1920, becoming a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons that same year, and underwent her training in various maternity and women’s hospitals throughout London and Birmingham. She became a lecturer in 1934 and a professor ten years later.

In 1936 she pioneered the idea of ‘Obstetric Flying Squads’ which she set up to deal with both obstetric and gynaecological emergencies in the poverty stricken slum areas of Birmingham where she worked. These ‘Flying Squads’ were equipped not only to deal with deliveries but also to carry out emergency resuscitation and blood transfusions, which often arose due to complications following illegal abortions.

Lloyd with medal
Hilda Lloyd wearing the medal of the President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Credit: RCOG.

 

A born leader, Lloyd regularly contributed to the night rota, taking a midwife, medical student and vital equipment when she went out with the ‘Flying Squad’. This innovative way of providing emergency care saved the lives of many hundreds of women and laid the foundation for Lloyd’s contribution to establishment of confidential enquiries into maternal deaths in the UK.

Hilda Lloyd also helped to establish the Women’s Visiting Gynaecological Club, which was exclusively for female members of the RCOG to encourage more women into medicine, and espoused the then radical view on the rights of women to continue their careers after marriage.

In 1944, Dame Hilda became the first woman Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Birmingham and was appointed to the Chair in 1946. She served on many local and national committees including the hospital’s governing board and the NHS Maternity Committee, and by 1948 was an influential member of the RCOG’s Council.

RCOG_PH15_3i
Hilda Lloyd admitting Princess Elizabeth to Honorary Fellowship with the RCOG in 1951.

She so impressed her male colleagues on Council with her outstanding abilities that they elected her to be the first ever female president of a medical royal college in 1949.

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Black and white photograph of Dame Hilda Lloyd in presidential robes. RCOG Archive.

Her generosity and commitment to the RCOG is present throughout the College’s current home. When the College premises at Sussex Place was built in 1960, Lloyd was appalled by the ugly view of bombed out buildings outside the main window of the College Council Chamber. She quickly donated funds to install a stained glass window featuring the College’s crest. It was designed by Scottish stained glass engineer Gordon Webster and is still in place today.

The College mace, on the dias in front of the President’s chair, under the stained-glass window in the Council Chamber at the RCOG.

She is remembered as having lived with energy and enthusiasm. She organised her own ninetieth birthday party. She died later in that year. She is commemorated in her home city of Birmingham with a blue plaque and was the first women to receive this honour.

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