Dr Annie McCall (1859 – 1949)
Annie McCall was one of the first women to qualify as a doctor and was a significant contributor to the modern practice of midwifery.
Dr McCall was from the beginning deeply concerned about the high death rate of mothers during childbirth and shortly after qualifying in 1885 she started a school of midwifery in her own home at 165 Clapham Road. In 1889, with Miss Marion Ritchie, she opened the Clapham Maternity Hospital at 41 & 43 Jeffreys Road, Stockwell. This had both antenatal and postnatal clinics and set high standards of hygiene and nursing care.
The hospital was the first maternity hospital staffed entirely by women doctors and only women students were admitted, to enable women to obtain training. The hospital was also unusual because it trained many black women, especially from Africa.
Dr McCall was going against the tide in taking in all women who needed attention during childbirth, including poor women, and unmarried women. This was at a time when being an unmarried mother could mean being cast out from the family with only the workhouse as a place to stay.
Dr McCall believed in the importance of ante-natal care and natural childbirth. The skills of midwifery and obstetrics were being developed by Annie McCall at a time when they were not recognised by the medical professional in general. Her results were remarkable, at a time when puerperal fever was so dangerous – in 50 years work with over 53,000 cases only 85 women died and forceps were used in only 3% of the cases and then only under the supervision of a doctor or the matron.
The hospital she had founded was renamed the Annie McCall Maternity Hospital in 1936. Dr McCall retired in 1941 and died in 1949 but the main hospital building continued as an NHS maternity hospital until 1970. The building and grounds were used as community artists’ studios, until Lambeth Council sold the property to developers Henley Homes.