Hello, lovelies! Here, you’ll Rebecca’s notes on Dr. James Barry. Enjoy!
Born: Dr. James Miranda Steuart Barry around 1790 in County Cork, Ireland
He dreamed of becoming a doctor and moved to Edinburgh in 1809 to enroll in the medical school. (age around 19?)
He was small statured with a high voice that caused people suspected that he was too young for medical school.
Because of this he almost wasn’t allowed to sit for his examinations until Lord Erskine intervened.
He received his degree in medicine at 22 and then enlisted as an assistant surgeon in the British Army, officially starting his military career on July 6, 1813.
He was quickly promoted to Assistant Staff Surgeon (equivalent to a lieutenant).
He was first sent to Cape Town, South Africa and spent 10 years there, during which he befriended Lord Charles Somerset.
Dr. Barry treated Lord Somerset’s daughter and thusly became a friend of the family, starting a deep friendship with Somerset and became is personal physician.
They were very close friends, at one point Barry moved into a private apartment at Somerset’s residence.
This caused rumors to start circulating about the “nature” of their friendship and escalated to the point that commissions were set up to investigate the scandal, but both were later exonerated.
- Commissions are set up to investigate a matter of “urgent public concern”.
- Less expensive and less power than a tribunal of inquiry
- But they may take evidence in private, where tribunals are held in public.
During the rumors, an anonymous accuser hung a poster stating that Somerset was “Buggering Dr. Barry”.
Part of the reason rumors spread about Dr. Barry and Somerset was because Dr. Barry had a high, unbroken voice, smooth skin, short stature, and overall looked young and boyish.
Dr. Barry compensated for this, he was known to have a hot and short temper, some incidents involve throwing medicine bottles and he even participated in a two separate duels.
He was very unpopular with Florence Nightingale, she once wrote “He behaved like a brute, the most hardened creature i ever met throughout the army”
He was also known for swearing like a trooper and being a ladies man.
In 1826 while still in Cape Town, he was one of the first to successfully perform a c-section where both mother and child survived
- Found sources that say procedure was done on a kitchen table
- This was before anesthetics (i.e. anesthesia) and antiseptics
Barry was known for being a very skilled surgeon (c-section the most impressive example) he was also dedicated to:
- Social reform
- Improving sanitary conditions wherever he went
- Mismanagement of barracks, prisons, and asylums
He treated everybody: rich or poor, colonists or slaves
On July 25, 1865, at the age of 70 Dr. Barry died of dysentery.
It was at this point, while preparing his body for burial, it was discovered he was a woman.
This was because his final wishes of being burried in the clothes he died in
He had “perfect female anatomy” and stretch marks indicated that he had given birth at some point in his life.
Margaret Ann Bulkley was the sister of James Barry, a famous artist and professor of painting at London’s Royal Academy who died in 1806.
It’s believed that childhood sexual assult (one source says she was raped by an uncle) and gave birth to a girl, Juliana, who was raised by Margaret’s mother.
After James Barry died, by 1809 Margaret no longer existed.
Using 3 inch high shoe inserts and an overcoat she enrolled in medical school as James Barry.
When 19 Barry wrote “was I not a girl I would be a Soldier!”
It has been suggested that Barry’s and Somerset’s relationship was more than just a friendship, but there is no evidence
Throughout his life he never allowed anyone in the room while he was undressing.
There is record of another doctor treating Barry for a chest infection in Canada, and that the room was always dark when he was examined.
Other that the rumors with Somerset, could not find any information on relationships Barry had
Barry was reported to be positively a woman, so probably not a hermaphrodite
There are theories of Barry being intersex, but many have argued against this due to lack of evidence
“Concealment of one’s sex for… 40 years in the British Army, is simply unbelievable”