Today is National Women’s Day in South Africa. It commemorates the many women – of all races and creeds – who marched against Apartheid’s Pass System on this day in 1956. (Obviously, women’s suffrage was of importance also.)
The changing face of medicine reminds me daily how lucky I am to be a woman today, rather than fifty years ago. Did you know that there are more females than males in my class?
So today I think about Dr James Barry, who was born a Briton girl but posed as a man in order to qualify as a doctor. While stationed in South Africa as a surgeon in the military, she performed the first known successful Cesarean section – successful in that both the mother and child lived.
Dr Barry is also noted for her emphasis on hygiene and cleanliness, which played a massive role in the survival of those injured during the Crimean war.
There is a lot of interest in Dr Barry’s life, and the South African Journal of Medicine has an excellent article on the subject here.
I am thankful that I do not have to pretend to be male in order to study medicine. I am thankful that my gender is unlikely to stand between myself and success. I’ve seen battered women and I’ve had a couple of professor’s write me off as a “little girl”, but it’s a lot better than it was for women a couple of decades ago.
I think, also, that times have become easier for transgender individuals, although in that sense we certainly have a long way to go. At any rate, if Dr Barry was a born woman who identified as a man, you know what… that’s okay too. I don’t claim to know so much about mind and body to have any knowledge of worth on the subject.