Margaret Ann Bulkley:The extraordinary Doctor James Barry

The most viewed post on this site has been the story of Corkwoman Margaret Ann Bulkley who went through life as Dr James Barry, an eminent physician who rose to the top of the ranks in the British Army becoming Inspector-General of Military Hospitals.

A SILVER VOICE FROM IRELAND

Portrait of Dr James Barry painted 1813 – 1816. Image: Wikipedia.

In July 1865  a char woman named Sophia Bishop was asked to lay out the body of an eminent physician. The place was London and Doctor James Barry, who had attained the rank of Inspector General of Military Hospitals, the highest medical rank in the British Army, had died of dysentery. Sophia Bishop went about preparing the body and discovered that  Dr. James Barry was in fact a ‘whole woman’  and had stretch marks on her body indicating that she had even borne a child. Sophia did not disclose the information until after the funeral. The story grabbed the headlines for a time, but there was no conclusive evidence as there had not been a post-mortem.  Interestingly for someone of such a high military rank, and who had given 50 years of loyal and distinguished service, no obituary was ever published. Furthermore, the embarrassed British Military placed an embargo on Dr…

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Margaret Ann Bulkley:The extraordinary Doctor James Barry

  1. What an extraordinary story SV. It seems mad these days that women were barred from doing so many things until recent times. Those such as Barry (great Cork name) had a hard road to travel.

    • Hi Roy – They surely did! ( and sometimes still do!) I am intrigued by the fact that she remained in the male identity throughout her life. Perhaps it was a more comfortable identity for many reasons.

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