Publication Details

McCarthy, L. (2018). Finding a Space for Women: The British Medical Association and Women Doctors in Australia, 1880-1939. Medical History: An International Journal for the History of Medicine and Related Sciences, 62 (1), 91-111.


This paper examines the experiences of women in one professional organisation - the British Medical Association in Australia - during a significant period in the development of such bodies. In doing so it offers an opportunity to consider the relationship between professional societies and the construction of a gendered profession. For the medical profession in particular the time-frame of this study, from the 1880s to the 1930s, has been regarded by scholars as especially important. In this period various features of medical professionalism came to prominence: the status and authority of doctors, the processes of formally registering medical credentials, and the scope and cohesiveness of professional associations. Taking the third of these themes, the current paper extends previous analyses by uniting gender with history and medicine as the central point of examination, in order to evaluate the changing and contested positions of women within the profession. In this way we not only demonstrate how the history of professional societies can reveal the diverse beliefs and shifting priorities of their members, but also contribute to explaining the remarkable persistence of gendered differences in the medical profession.



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