"Sophia Bishop was laying out the body of Dr James Barry, on July 25, 1865, when she screamed. Her master was a woman."

"In a time when women had very few career choices, a cunning plan was hatched so that Margaret could become a doctor. She arrived by sea in Edinburgh as ‘James Barry’, attended medical school and graduated in 1812. After six months at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, she joined the army as a surgeon in 1813. While in the army, in charge of the Cape Colony, she reorganised medical care with a strong emphasis on public health, improved hygiene standards and adequate diet. Her methods of nursing sick and wounded soldiers from the Crimea meant that she had the highest recovery rate of the whole war. She also performed one of the first successful Caesarean sections, in 1826, and produced a definitive report on cholera in Malta in 1848."

"Barry was a fury, a force, a swaggering Regency dandy in a tricorn hat, wearing a sword almost as long as his five-foot height. He was also a teetotaller and a vegetarian. He fought a duel, was arrested twice and, in a scandal that rocked Cape Town society, was publicly accused of a homosexual affair with his friend and protector, the governor of the Cape." (From a review of a new biography)

Note that Dr. Barry kept her secret from the British army for more than fifty years while serving in some very rough and remote colonial outposts and even going on active military campaigns.

First published August 5, 2016 at 03:19AM. Originally syndicated from: http://www.metafilter.com/161424/James-Barry-pioneering-nineteenth-century-army-surgeon-had-a-secret