On the eve of the World War One, it was almost 40 years since women had become eligible to study and practise medicine, but women were still unable to work in most general hospitals. Consequently, their vocation was restricted to general practice and those hospitals founded by women to treat women and children. The war opened new doors to women doctors, as men were called to the front.
Dorothy Christian Hare was born in 1876 in Bath Somerset. Although she was educated privately, she chose to attend Cheltenham Ladies College at nineteen in order to achieve the qualifications needed to enter the London School of Medicine. After qualifying, she was house physician at the Royal Free Hospital and the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and an assistant pathologist at the Royal Free. She went on to achieve her MD in 1908 and Doctor of Public Health in 1912.
By 1913, she was in Cambridge and her address in the Spalding’s Directory was 2, Gonville Villas, Cambridge, where she was working as a GP. Her work in the city was indeed quite varied. The Cambridge Independent Press reported on her involvement in various organisations that she contributed to whilst living in the city. In 1913 she joined the Cambridge Women’s Suffrage Association and supported the work of the Female Refuge as well as acting as a judge at a baby competition in Chesterton that year. When war came she helped in the work amongst Belgium refugees and examined those taking the Red Cross Nursing qualifications. The Addenbrooke’s minutes record that she joined the staff at the hospital as a clinical pathologist in 1915.
In 1916 the War Office recognised that the number of male doctors to serve abroad was decreasing and she joined the 85 medical women sent to Malta with the Royal Army Medical Corps as a civilian surgeon. Although attached to the RAMC they did not have equal rights and were forced to pay their own board and not allowed to wear army uniform. On 23 April 1918 she was appointed Medical Assistant Director of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) and was awarded the C.B.E in 1919.
Her work with the WRNS made her aware of the difficulties of women to receive treatment for venereal disease and over the next few years she founded two hostels that cared for women with the disease. In 1922, she joined a Government Committee of Inquiry to consider how to prevent the disease in the community.
In October 1918 she was present at the visit of Queen Mary and the Princess Mary to the Papworth Colony and the First Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge.
After the war, Dr Hare decided to specialise and became medical registrar at the Royal Free Hospital in 1920 and then was awarded the MRPC (Member of the Royal College of Physicians)
After that she became physician to the Royal Free Hospital and Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital becoming the third women to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (FRCP) and her interests were in colitis, arthritis and diabetes. A talk given by her in 1928 at the Institute of Hygiene extolled the virtues of walking as exercise that could be carried on well into old age.
Retiring in 1937 Dr Hare moved to Falmouth. As a skilled artist and singer, she had a great interest in the arts and organised many Arts Council events and exhibitions.
Dr Hare died in 1967.
Thank you to Yamini for finding a portrait of Dr Hare: