Papers of Mary Esslemont

Scope and Content

Personal papers of Mary Esslemont, relating to all aspects of her life and career, including the several medical, political, professional and voluntary organisations and causes with which she was associated. The collection has not been listed, but interim arrangement has identified the following broad subject areas: Aberdeen University; Lecture notes (Aberdeen University); British Medical Association; Medical Women's International Association; Medical Women's Federation; Scottish Health Service Council; World Medical Association; Medical Education Congress; Dunfermline College of Education; Cripples Welfare Association; Liberal Party; Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; National Council for Civil Liberties; Scottish Convention of Women; Soroptomists; United Nations Association; health education; nursing; population and family planning; lectures and talks; off prints; travel journals; personalia; local groups; slides and posters.

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Esslemont was born in Aberdeen in 1891, and in 1914 graduated BSc from the University of Aberdeen, where she participated fully in student life. She worked as an assistant in the Botany department at the University of Aberdeen, and as a science lecturer at Stockwell Training College, London, before entering the medical school, from where she graduated in 1923. She was appointed assistant medical officer of health in Keighley, Yorkshire, from 1924 - 1929, before returning to Aberdeen, where she was in private practice for over 30 years.

She was a member of council of the British Medical Association for 23 years, during which time she served on its Public Health, Amending Acts, Joint BMA and Royal College of Nursing, Occupational Health, and Journal committees. She was also the first woman to serve on the Scottish Council, and became its chairperson in 1968. During her time in Aberdeen she became involved in many other local organisations and causes, for which work she was awarded freedom of the City in 1981. She served on the University General Council for over 40 years, and in 1947 became the first woman assessor on the University Court. Maintaining her family's well-established association with local politics (her father and grandfather had both been Liberal MPs for Aberdeen South), she became first woman president of Aberdeen Liberal Association in 1954. In 1954 she received an honorary LL D (Aberdeen) and in 1955 was awarded a CBE.

For further details see obituary in British Medical Journal, 289, (1984), 705.


See Scope and Content - this arrangement may be subject to revision when fuller listing of the collection becomes possible

Access Information

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Deposited in the University in Sept 1984, by G. Birnie Esslemont

Other Finding Aids

Interim summary list available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail:

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures


No accruals expected

Related Material

Interviews with Dr Mary Esslemont (1891-1984), recorded on 9, 15 and 23 August 1984 by Dorothy Johnston (GB 231 MS 3620/I/1-3). Transcripts available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: ). See also Aberdeen University Oral History web site


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original