Lydia Henry Documents

Scope and Content

Documents on the early life and career of Lydia Manley Henry, graduate of the University of Sheffield Medical School

Administrative / Biographical History

The collection consists of notes by Dr Henry on her early life in Sheffield as a medical student and her subsequent relatively short career in medicine, together with three photographs. There are also notes relating to her time as a pupil at Sheffield Day High School for Girls.

Lydia Manley Henry (1891-1985), MB, ChB, MD, DSc, known familiarly as 'Leila', was born in Macduff, Banffshire, 30th June 1891. After the death of her father when she was only two and a half years old she stayed in Scotland with her aunt until the age of 14, when she moved to Sheffield to join her mother, who had sought employment as a Lecturer at the Day Training College for Teachers before becoming Vice-Principal of the new City Training College in 1905. She attended the Sheffield Day High School for Girls.

The Medical School, formally now part of the new University of Sheffield founded in 1905, whose statutes demanded equality of academic opportunity between the sexes, began for the first time to admit female students. Lydia Henry was one of the first of these to be enrolled, in 1909 (Elizabeth Ethel Jenkins, who appears with her in the Medical examination lists for 1910 had appeared in the Day Students list of 1906-7, but seems not to have completed the course), and graduated MB ChB in 1916, at the same time as another woman medical student (Florence Elizabeth Millard, who had registered later) - these two being the first female graduates in medicine at Sheffield. She was also awarded an MD in 1920. During her undergraduate years at Sheffield she developed a serious streptococcal infection as a result of dissection work which caused her to miss a year of her studies. As practical training she worked in both the Sheffield Royal Infirmary and the Sheffield Royal Hospital, a process facilitated by the loss of many medical students and staff to the armed forces during the Great War. Her intern year at the Sheffield Royal Infirmary proved exceptionally onerous due to Zeppelin raids and accidents in the local munitions works. She also became the first woman assistant in the Royal Infirmary's female VD clinic.

At the end of her internship she joined the Scottish Women's Hospitals Committee, which provided women doctors to serve in France, and served as an assistant surgeon in the hospital set up in the Abbey of Royaumont, north of Paris, within reach of the Western Front. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government.

In 1920 her thesis on gas gangrene brought her an MD from Sheffield University, the first woman to receive one and only the second Sheffield MD ever awarded. In 1925 she emigrated to Canada, where she married, adopting the name 'Mrs J. Stewart Henry', and her medical career effectively came to an end. In 1978, at the 150th anniversary of the Medical School in Sheffield, she received an honorary DSc degree from her old University.

An account of Lydia Henry's career is given in The Women of Royaumont: a Scottish Women's Hospital on the Western Front, by Eileen Crofton (1997), on which these notes are partly based.


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Access Information

Available to all researchers, by appointment

Acquisition Information

Presented by Dr Henry in 1979


Description prepared by Lawrence Aspden

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According to document

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