Miss Campbell

Dame Campbell.jpg
Dame Janet Campbell, Portrait by Stanley Reed 1908 – 1978[1]
Miss Campbell. I would like to think this is Dame Janet Mary Campbell, 56, (1877-1954), a pioneering senior medical officer. The niggling doubt is twofold: first “Miss Campbell” is a common name and there may well be other candidates; secondly, though she is still a Miss (she married in 1934), Janet was awarded her DBE in 1924 so it is surprising that even if not listed as Dame Campbell, a DBE would have been likely, as shown with others and their OBEs CH etc. and /or as Dr Campbell. In her favour she is both a high flying pioneer and suffrage supporter. And of course the welfare of women and children was important to Lady Rhondda and her Six Point Group.

puzzle-piece2-50Are there other candidates out there? Plenty of Miss Campbells I’m sure. Not necessarily a medic, even though we have a good collection. Other candidates who might gain traction: a Miss Campbell who in 1913 was the secretary of the Lewisham WSPU, at 1 Lewis Grove, Lewisham; a Jean Campbell, a founding member of the Clerks WPSU, of 28 Berlin Road, Catford; and a Christina Campbell said to be at the same address.


Our plan A for the table is to seat the more senior ladies, Misses Campbell and Solomon together, and perhaps Janet next to Miss Blunt, as the latter trained at the same medical school – though there not many options available of course.


No many clues, but meeting fellow medics and share experiences and current challenges perhaps. For someone at the peak of her career, who retires a year later when she marries another senior medic, hearing of the career of Lady Rhondda might have prompted her to reflect about her own achievements and perhaps things still to do.


Janet was born in Brighton on 5th March 1877 to Mary Letitia Rowe (born in Gosport, 1853, died aged 38 in 1892) and George Campbell, (1849 – 1943) Scottish born bank manager (married in 1875). Janet attended Brighton High School, later went to Germany for some months (acquiring a good knowledge of the language) which helped when pursuing a postgraduate course in Vienna. She graduated MB in London in 1901 (at the London School of Medicine for Women), and obtained MD and MS degrees in 1904 and 1905 – “a remarkable achievement”.[2] She started her career as a junior house surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, and senior medical officer at the Belgrave Hospital for Children (one of the few London hospitals to employ women). In 1904 she became an assistant school medical officer in London at a time when more attention was being paid to national physique and the need for more systematic medical inspection of children. She became Hon Secretary and later Chairman of the Dartford Physical Training College, founded by the formidable Swedish Martina Bergman Osterbury, aunt of Dr Anna Broman (Table 1). In 1907 she was the first full time woman medical officer for the Board of Education.[3]

Her fast track progress in promoting the welfare of mothers and children was by no means interrupted by participating in the “vanishing for the vote” campaign of 1911, when she was living at 86 Campden Hill Court, Campden Hill.

Other posts included being a medical member in the War Cabinet on women’s health, President of the Medical Women’s Federation a member of the Health Committee of the League of Nations and she spent six months in Australia studying child welfare.[4]

Particularly notable studies includes a 1917 report for The Carnegie UK Trust on the physical welfare of mothers and children, and a 1924 report on maternal mortality. She also helped in the preparation of the 1923 Hadow Report.

In 1919 the Mid Sussex Times noted that “Great satisfaction is felt in women’s circles in Brighton that Dr. Janet Campbell, whose father one time was Manager the North Street Branch of the Capital and Counties Bank (now Lloyd’s Bank), been appointed by the Local Government Board as one of its medical officers and given special charge of maternity and child welfare work.”[5]

In 1924 she was made a DBE and an honorary doctor of hygiene by Durham University. By 1929 her reputation was such that Britain loaned her to Australia – and she toured other Commonwealth countries.[6] [7] Common Cause didn’t want her to stay away too long:

Janet Australia

Dame Janet

By 1933, about to turn 56, she was at the peak of her influential career.


On 16th February 1934, almost a year after the dinner, Janet married the GMC Registrar Michael Heseltine in London, which required her to give up her civil service position.

In November 1937 Janet assisted in the efforts to help refugee children in the Basque region after the bombing of Guernica.[8]

Her leisure pursuits included horseriding and gardening and she was a JP in Surrey and Gloucestershire.[9] Her ODNB biographer writes: “She was the great pioneer of maternity and child welfare services and as such was universally acknowledged. It was not only the charming and rather diffident manner of this tall, good-looking, well-dressed woman which attracted the admiration and respect of those who came into contact with her. Her clear-thinking brain and her sound knowledge of her subject enabled her to grasp essentials quickly so that her wise, considered opinion and advice were sought by local authorities, medical officers, and hospitals throughout the country and by organizations far beyond the confines of the United Kingdom”.[10]

This much admired, “tall, good looking well-dressed woman”, died after a long and painful illness at a nursing home in Highgate (still there today) on 27th September 1954 aged 77.[11] [12] [13] [14]

It would be hard to find a more highly qualified candidate to be the “Miss Campbell” of the dinner of 1933.


[1] Bid To Art website accessed 23.2.2019

[2] Dame Janet Mary Campbell, 1877 – 1954, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23rd May 2006, accessed online 1.3.2018. 

[3] Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 10.1.1934 

[4] Gloucestershire Echo, 17.2.1934 p1 

[5] Mid Sussex Times, 11.3.1919 

[6] Common Cause 24.5.1929 p2

[7] Daily Herald 26.11.1929 p10

[8] P.P. Anderson, (2017) The Struggle over the Evacuation to the United Kingdom and Repatriation of Basque Refugee Children in the Spanish Civil War: Symbols and Souls. Journal of Contemporary History, 52 (2). pp297-318. ISSN 0022-0094 accessed online 23.2.2019 

[9] Kent and Sussex Courier 18.12.1936 

[10] Dame Janet Mary Campbell, 1877 – 1954, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 23rd May 2006, accessed online 1.3.2018.  

[11] Daily Herald, 26.2.1929, ©Mirrorpix, Image created courtesy of the British Library Board, accessed from BNA(www.britishnewpaperarchive.co.uk)

[12] Janet Mary Campbell, Wikipedia

[13] The Lancet Volume 223, Issue 5759 p89, 13.1.1934 Access by subscription

[14] Royal Society for Public Heath, Presidential Address, by Dame Janet Campbell, D.B.E., M.D., M.S., a Senior Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, First Published 1st August 1932 . Website accessed 23.2.2019 

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