• Categories: 20th Century

Ethel Margaret Burnside, who preferred to call herself E. Margaret, was Hertfordshire’s first “chief health visitor and lady inspector of midwives”. In 1911, she set up an army of trained nurses to attend women in childbirth and to advise mothers on how to keep their infants healthy after birth. The only known photograph of her was taken when she was 17 years old.

E Margaret Burnside

E Margaret Burnside

In later life she was described as “a big, bony woman, about 5 ft 10 inches tall, with a long thin face and dark hair, which she wore scraped back, a very imposing presence, a penetrating voice and a dominant personality.” The clerk to the county council is known to have lived in fear of her and would make himself immediately available if he knew she wished to see him. She persuaded him to provide 60 spring balances at 5 shillings each, so that each baby born in the county could be weighed at birth and at 1 year old. Her work has had a phenomenal legacy.