Eminent Colchester doctor honoured with blue plaque
The first female doctor in Colchester has been commemorated with a blue plaque.
Born in 1877 Dr Ruth Bensusan Butt trained at the Royal Free Hospital in London and qualified as a doctor in 1904, becoming an MD in 1908.
She moved to Colchester in 1910 with her new husband, accountant Geoffrey Butt, and lived first on North Hill before moving to the Minories on the High Street.
As well as being the first female doctor in the town, Dr Butt was a Fabian, member of the Labour Party and a suffragist who was involved in a number of areas in Colchester – including being instrumental in setting up the first maternity hospital.
The Colchester Civic Society has installed the blue plaque on the front of the Minories, where Dr Butt lived and worked from 1915 until 1957, when she died.
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It was unveiled on Sunday by Professor Simon Shorvon, Dr Butt’s grandson, and Dr Elizabeth Hall, another pioneering Colchester doctor and founder of St Helena Hospice who is also a civic society member.
Rosemary Jewers, from the Colchester Civic Society, said: “Dr Butt had a huge social conscience and she threw herself into the task of making life better for the poor, for children and for women in the town. She harangued landlords about the state of their properties until repairs were made, opened a day nursery at the Minories, started antenatal classes, and opened social clubs for soldiers.
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“She took her duties as a member of the board of governors of the workhouse very seriously and fought to instil that same ethic in her fellow board members.
“Besides doing her best for her patients – she is remembered as a very forthright, formidable, rather frightening, GP but one who was prepared to move mountains if the need arose.
“Dr Butt also did her best for the whole community, standing as a Labour councillor in 1922, winning the election and remaining on the council until 1935 when she became an Alderman.
“She also founded the Colchester Inner Wheel, the Colchester Professional Women’s Club and the Colchester branch of the Medical Women’s Federation. She became President of the Colchester Medical Society in 1934, and was the first woman to attend the Oyster Feast, which she did in 1921.”
Dr Butt had three children, John, and twins David and Barbara. John was a well known Colchester artist and historian.