Dr Anna Broman

no-picture-square3Anna Broman, 42, (1891-1962) like the other, younger, Anna Kellgren-Cyriax at the table, followed her Swedish family into a career in physical education / medical gymnastics – in this case Swedish Gymnastics. Dr Anna wrote on the subject of recreative physical training and in the 1930s was rather critical of the way exercise for women tended to move in the direction of “playing for ‘sex appeal, for beauty or slimness.”


With all the guests except Noel Brailsford and Clare Leighton being from the world of education, Anna would have been an obvious partner for anyone, though being seated at least with one of Noel and Clare would have made for variety, and perhaps to learn more about Lady Rhondda if they didn’t know her personally; perhaps she would not have been alongside the younger Swedish gymnast Anna Kellgren-Kyriax given they must have been well known to each other, though this could have been a good opportunity to catch up; the Olympic silver medallist Gladys Davis might have been someone she would have enjoyed the chance to meet if they hadn’t socialised much before; and much might have been learnt from a conversation with the experienced educator Elizabeth Stevenson.


Professionally perhaps the two Swedish Annas are concerned at the direction that women’s gymnastics might be taking, into what perhaps they considered frivolous, more about beauty than health. Or this trend might not yet have been strong enough to worry them. The dinner perhaps was an opportunity to get way from all that and find out how the world of politics etc was going and meeting so many other leading women.


Dr Anna Brita [or Bridget] Broman M.R.C.S. L.R.C.P., 42, was born in March 1891 (aged under one month in the 5th April 1891 census and 10 by 31.3.1901) at 4 Fairfax Road, South Hampstead, the daughter of the Swedish born Ida Fredrika Charlotta Broman née Bergman (1855 – 1927, age 72) and Adolf Allan Verner Broman, (1862 – Q1 1947, aged 85). In 1901 Anna (aged 10) and her parents, with one French and two Swedish servants, were living at 12 Southwick Place, to the north of Hyde Park, London.

Martina Bergman Österberg, Anna’s aunt. 1.1.1890 Xylography by Gunnar Forssell (1859-1903) [2]
In 1911 at the age of 20, Anna Brita Broman was one of 65 students of Swedish Gymnastics at the Kingsfield based Physical Training College, Dartford, Kent, run by her aunt, the strict Swedish Martina Bergman Osterbury. In 1913 Anna matriculated at the London Medical School for Women. During WW1, from July 1916 to January 1917,  Anna served as a surgical dresser with the British Committee of the French Red Cross. She trained from 1914 at the London School of Medicine for Women and St. Mary’s, qualifying M.R.C.S. L.R.C.P. in 1919. Swedish Gymnastics was an Olympic event during the early years of the Modern Olympics, albeit a team demonstration event. She became the Senior Clinical Assistant at the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital, and Clinical Assistant at the British Red Cross Hospital for Rheumatism. At one stage she was the Medical Officer of the Physiotherapy Department of the South London Hospital for Women. [1]

In a 1935 article cited in the comprehensive Ida M. Webb 1967 thesis on Women’s PE, Anna would refer to her aunt’s work with respect to “the ‘economic, social and spiritual freedom of women’ from the traditions and prejudices existent in her day”.[3] In the 1920s and 30s Dr Janet Campbell (Table 16) played a leading role in keeping the College on an even keel.[4]

Anna was a member of the Council of Massage and Medical Gymnastics, 9 New Cavendish Square. Anna used the form of Swedish massage which her father Allan Broman introduced to England when he was an assistant to the Swedish pioneer of medical gymnastics J.H. Kellgren, grandfather of Dr Anna Kellgren-Cyriax (also on this table). J.H. Kellgren was the father of Annjuta “Anna” Kellgren-Cyriax, the mother of Dr Anna K-C. Both the younger Anna K-C (23 at the time of the dinner) and Anna Broman (32 or very closely) carried on in the family profession. Anna Broman published on the subject of Recreative Physical Training. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

In 1930 Anna was the author of “Remedial Treatment of Scoliosis” (sideways curvature of the spine) in the British Journal of Physiotherapy.


How to keep fit and healthy was not a straightforward issue in the 1930s, hotly debated as to method and with political and social dimensions, with organisations such as ‘Keep Fit’ and The Women’s League of Health and Beauty moving in a direction of which Anna and the Swedish gymnasts it seems would not have approved. We get a flavour from a recent paper: “In the 1930s …. the nation’s womanhood was swept off its feet by ‘Keep Fit’ and the Women’s League of Health and Beauty … The Swedish gymnasts [were troubled]: ‘It is you gymnasts, you educationally-trained gymnasts, who can save this reckless and uneducated enthusiasm for something real, something genuine, something fine. If you desert your own training . . . to run with the pack, you will be no better than the pack.’ One cannot help feeling that ‘the pack’ in her [Dr Anna Broman’s] eyes, meant girls who went ‘slobbering along the road with young men’, for she regards ‘Keep Fit’ and the like as playing for ‘sex appeal, for beauty or slimness.”[10]  We may note that good physical education was also pursued at St Leonards School, attended by Lady Rhondda, Helen Archdale and others.

By 1936 Ann had became Medical Officer for Dartford College and responsible for overseeing the Clinic and student health. She valiantly visited the college once or twice a month, even when it was evacuated to Cornwall.[11]

Anna also published two books: Recreative physical training: technical notes on the training of leaders of recreative physical training, Ling Physical Education Association, 1940; and Simple Health Hints;  Board of Education, Published by H.M. Stationery Office,  revised edition 1943.

imagesThe building in Marylebone where Anna’s father Allan founded the Central Institute for Swedish Gymnastics for men in October 1911 is now the Hellenic Institute. During World War One it became the Swedish War Hospital for British Wounded. Soon after the war it was sold by Allan Broman to the London County Council to become the LCC College of Physical Education.[12]

1912-Central-Institute-Swedish-Gymnastics-Allan-Broman-Paddington (2)

Anna died aged on 22nd February 1962 at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, having been living until then at 58a Wimpole Street. She was unmarried.  Her estate was regranted in 1967 to the Swedish Consul (may investigate why). [13]


[1] Bergman Österberg Magazine 1936 page 21 and Bergman Österberg News Sheet 1963 pp 42, 43

[2] Sourced via Wikipedia from Gothenberg University Library

[3] Ida M. Webb, Women’s Physical Education in Great Britain, 1800 – 1966, Thesis, 21.3.1967, accessed online 17.3.2018

[5] Ida M. Webb, Women’s Physical Education in Great Britain, 1800 – 1966, Thesis, 21.3.1967, pages 207/ 208 and ff accessed online 17.3.2018

[5] Allan Broman, Wellcome Library archives, accessed 8.1.2018.

[6] Riksarkivet on Allan Broman (in Swedish, with photo) accessed 12.1.2018

[7] Anna Broman, (1942) Simple Health Hints

[8] On the desirability of sport for women, Dr Anna Broman on a panel

[9] Report on the Blind by Anna Broman and Miss Vulliamy

[10] Sheila Fletcher, Women first. The female tradition in English physical education 1880-1980, London and Dover: The Athlone Press 1984, Cited in Jill Julius Matthews, They Had Such a Lot of Fun: The Women’s League of Health and Beauty between the Wars, History Workshop, No. 30 (Autumn, 1990), OUP, pp. 22

[11] Bergman Österberg Magazine 1936 page 21 and Bergman Österberg News Sheet 1963 pp 42, 43

[12] Lost Hospitals of London

[13] Dr Anna Broman, Hutchinson’s Woman’s Who’s Who 1934, Hutchinson & Co. London.

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