Dr. James Barry
James Barry was a surgeon in the British Army during the early 19th century. He graduated from The University of Edinburgh Medical School and worked in military hospitals throughout the British Empire, rising to the rank of Inspector General. After his death in 1865 it became apparent that Barry had in fact been born and raised as a woman, called Margaret Ann Bulkley. Confused that Barry had been identified as ‘male’ on his death certificate, when anatomical evidence suggested otherwise, the Register Office wrote to his doctor and enquired whether ‘after his death [Barry was] found to be female’, to which the doctor replied:
I never had any suspicion that Dr Barry was a woman… there was the woman who performed the last offices [and] she said that Dr Barry was a female and that I was a pretty doctor not to know this… I thought that he might be neither, viz. an imperfectly developed man. She then said that she had examined the body, and was a perfect female and farther that there were marks of him having had a child when very young. [It is] my own impression was that Dr Barry was a Hermaphrodite. But whether Dr Barry was a male, female, or hermaphrodite I do not know.
After this revelation some claimed to have known all along, though the army sealed their records for 100 years. It is believed that Barry disguised herself solely so that she could become a doctor and as such she became the first British woman to qualify. She was dedicated to improving the sanitary conditions and diets for her patients everywhere she went although she was often argumentative, as documented by Florence Nightingale after the pair had a dispute during the Crimean War: ‘I never had such a blackguard rating in all my life… than from this Barry sitting on his horse… he behaved like a brute … After he was dead, I was told that (he) was a woman… I should say that (she) was the most hardened creature I ever met.’