Mary Barkas at the Maudsley: 1923-1927



Publication Details

Kaplan, R. M. (2017). Mary Barkas at the Maudsley: 1923-1927. Journal of Medical Biography, Online First 1-8.


The Maudsley Hospital, reopened in January 1923, became the centre of British psychiatric research and achieved a world-wide reputation. At a time when women were rare in psychiatry, New Zealand-born Mary Barkas was the only woman (and psychoanalyst) among the first four psychiatrists appointed. This paper looks at her role in the early years at the Maudsley. The letters she wrote to her father, often on a daily basis, provide a unique insight to the earliest years of the hospital that was to have such an influence on British psychiatry. It is the only insider record we have of this crucial time. Barkas demonstrated her versatility in psychiatry and child psychiatry. She used psychoanalysis to treat her patients, receiving recognition from her colleagues. Her work in this field proved to be an exception as analysis was not practiced after she left the Maudsley. Her problem was the institutionalised prejudice against women in psychiatry, which caused her to leave. Her career was terminated at an early stage and her life took a puzzling turn after she returned to New Zealand in 1933. We can remember Mary Barkas as a forgotten psychiatric pioneer whose life and work deserves to be more widely known and recognised.

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