12 spectacular British women’s firsts

5. First female doctor

James Barry

Dr James Barry started life in Ireland by the name of Margaret Bulkley, the daughter of a grocer in Cork. It all starts in 1803 when Bulkley’s farther was jailed for debt. Now penniless, they looked to relative James Barry, professor if painting at London’s Royal Academy, to help Bulkley finish her education so she could earn her wages by teaching. Barry discussed the issue with fellow friends physician Edward Fryer and General Francisco Miranda. Before anything could be accomplished Barry died. Some of his money, however, ended up in a fund for Bulkley, who moved with her mother to London a few months later. There, under the tutelage of Fryer and Miranda, a plot was created to make a doctor out of her. As no British medical school admitted women, she started masquerading as James Barry.

After six months as a student at St Thomas’ Hospital, Barry graduated from university in 1812 and joined the army, who had actively been seeking doctors. Thus, Barry became a military surgeon in the British Army and served in India and South Africa. By the end of ‘his’ career, Barry had become Inspector General in charge of military hospitals. Only after Barry died, did they discover what gender she really was.

6. First female FTSE 100 CEO

Dame Marjorie Morris Scardino

After dropping out of law school in 1975 to focus on becoming a journalist and finding work as an editor for the Associated Press in Charleston, Marjorie met reporter Albert Scardino, who would later become her husband. Together, they set up the Pulitzer Prize-winning Georgia Gazette, which she wrote for while still working as a partner in a local law firm. In 1985, Scardino went on to become US director of The Economist, and became CEO in 1992. 

By 1997, Scardino had become a British citizen and moved to London to work with Pearson, who half-owned The Economist Group. The reason why After leading the resurrection of an ailing Pearson, Scardino had become the FTSE100’s first ever female CEO- in charge of Pearson itself. Since then, she has been admired as a role model for gender equality in the boardroom. Then, in December 2013, after controversy involving a lack of diversity on the Twitter board, she became the company’s first female director.

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