Tag Archives: Dr Octavia Wilberforce

W is for …

Dr Octavia Wilberforce, Virginia’s doctor

Octavia was born in 1888 and had a limited education of sporadic music, history and literature lessons followed by one full formal year of learning at age 16. Aged 22 she decided she wanted to be a doctor and despite her parents being against it, her father cutting her out of his will and the backlash of refusing to marry the man that her father wanted her to, she started at the London School of Medicine for Women in 1913.

At this time, only 3% of qualified doctors were female but despite the odds and the prejudice she had her own general practice by 1923, and she became Head Physician at Sussex Hospital for Women.

Leonard arranged for Virginia to be treated by Dr Wilberforce in 1941 when the familiar signs of her depression and mental turmoil began again. He made an urgent appointment for Virginia who maintained that nothing was wrong and resisted all efforts of help. Virginia presented to the doctor as thin, restless, vacant, shaking and tired. Dr Wilberforce could only prescribe rest, fresh air and good food and explained some of her symptoms as being due to smoking too much and eating too much cream and milk.

Leonard and the doctor did consider the possibility of Virginia being cared for in an asylum  but they decided on sending Virginia home to be looked after by Leonard.

But it was too late for Virginia, she decided to die the very next day.