Papers of: Williams, Cicely Delphine (1893-1992)

Scope and Content

The collection covers most aspects of Williams' life and career after 1939. Papers from her work with the British Colonial Service in Ghana, 1928-1936, were largely lost during transit to her next appointment in Singapore, but the typescript copy of her 1935 report The mortality and morbidity of the children of the Gold Coast is extant. Many papers relating to Williams' work with the British Colonial Service in Singapore, 1936-1941, were lost during the Japanese invasion, but she took a few files into Changi jail, where she wrote up the report An experiment in health work in Trengganu in 1940-1941 . Notebooks, correspondence and writings made during her internment, when she was appointed as camp nutritionist by her fellow women prisoners, are also in the collection. Post-war papers cover most aspects of Williams' work, including positions with the World Health Organisation, the American University at Beirut and Tulane School of Public Health, as well as correspondence and collected reprints relating to work carried out in 'retirement' at Wyndham House, Oxford.

Administrative / Biographical History

Cicely Delphine Williams was born December 1893. She first attracted the attention of the medical world when she identified the protein deficiency disease kwashiorkor whilst working with the British Colonial Service in the Gold Coast in 1928-1935, and she continued to be active in the debate over protein nutrition throughout her life. She was equally important as a pioneer of maternal and child care in developing countries with a system based on local traditions and resources rather than on the use of expensive drugs and western systems of child care. As first Head of the Maternal and Child Health Section of the World Health Organisation in 1949-1951 she expounded this philosophy, as she did in subsequent teaching appointments in Beirut, America and London. Her primary area of interest was maternal and child health, encompassing nutrition, breast feeding, birth control, the training of personnel and the development of health services. She was an active member of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War, speaking at their meetings. Williams died in 1992.


By section as follows: A. Personal and biographical; B. British colonial service 1929-1948; C. Work in UK 1948-1967; D. World Health Organisation, head of MCH services, 1948-1951, and consultancy work for WHO 1951-1966; E. Consultancy work abroad 1951-1982; F. American University of Beirut 1960-1964; G. Tulane School of Public Health and work in USA 1969-1980; H. Work in `retirement' 1976-1987; J. Publications and articles; K. Lectures; L. Ephemera: reprints, articles and reports; M. Audio-visual material

On arrival at the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre the collection was in a considerable state of disorder, with no obvious distinction between the contents of the two accessions. In most cases material within boxes, and even within files had no coherent order, either chronologically, or by subject, so a new arrangement had to be imposed, with sections reflecting different periods of Williams' career, and gathering together publications, lectures, ephemera and audio-visual material. There was much duplication of papers, especially of Williams' publications, and these were weeded and placed in the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine Library. Material of a personal nature has been returned to the family.

Access Information

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with the Archivist after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Acquisition Information

These records were given to the Wellcome Library in 1993 with the agreement of Cicely Williams' nieces, Mrs EK Cruikshank and Mrs RM Dale-Harris, and nephew, Mr Michael Williams. The first accession was received in April, from the International Nutrition Foundation, Sutton Courtenay, where the papers had been placed by Michael Williams after Cicely Williams' move from Wyndham House. In June Dr Jennifer Stanton, at the Wellcome Unit Oxford, deposited the second, smaller, accession of material given to her by Cicely Williams during interviews for the History Workshop Centre for Local History Newsletter in 1986. (Acc Nos 468, 473).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued by Isobel Hunter, CMAC, Wellcome Library, May 1994. Hard-copy catalogue available in Wellcome Library.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Helen Wakely

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Related Material

Held by Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library: Papers of Hugh Trowell, PP/HCT, JC Waterlow, WTI/JCW, AC Lovatt-Campbell, WTI/ALC, Family Planning Association, SA/FPA. Material relating to Changi jail and the Japanese occupation of Singalore can be found in the Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection, CMAC/RAMC.


Retired Except on Demand , Sally Cradock, 1983; Cicely: The Story of a Doctor , Ann Dally, 1968; `Cicely Williams: Memoirs of a Doctor', J. Beinart and R. King, History Workshop Centre for Social History Newsletter , No. 3, 1986; obituaries in The Times , 18 July 1992; The Independent , 16 September 1992; The Guardian , 21 July 1992.