March - women

March – women

Formidable females, wonderful women

Our 75th anniversary theme this month is women. We’ve got Twitter chats lined up on gender diversity in the profession, a webinar on ‘Giving voice to trans people’, and our beautiful March illustration ready for downloading. If that’s not enough, check out Yvonne Wren’s June 2019 article on gender imbalance in speech and language therapy, find out what SLT legend, Professor Pam Enderby, has to say about this female dominated profession, or discover the women that pioneered the profession with Jois Stansfield’s article here.

We’ll be continuing the celebration over on our social media pages, to get involved and be in with a chance of winning a limited edition 75th badge, tweet as at @rcslt_bulletin with the hashtag #RCSLTWomen, or email us at

Jois Stansfield: the women who built us

Jois Stansfield shines a light on some of the strong women who helped to build the speech and language therapy profession as we know it today

Many of the pioneers of the speech and language therapy profession, including all 18 of the RCSLT founder fellows, were women. International Women’s Day, recognised on 8 March, provides a great opportunity to celebrate our place as a strong, female-led profession, and the women who helped to make it that way.

Elsie Fogerty (1865-1945) established what is now the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama at the Albert Hall in London in 1906. She came from a privileged background, but had to find a way to earn a living when her father became ill and unable to support the family. By 1912 she was teaching about elocution, voice production and ‘speech defects’, and began working as
a speech therapist in St Thomas’s Hospital. She was involved with the school until her retirement in 1942.

The Great War decimated the male population in the UK, and between the wars around a fifth of women of ‘marriageable age’ remained single throughout their lives. Many of these women turned their energy to forging careers for themselves, including many early speech therapists.

Winifred Kingdon Ward (1884-1979) was one such SLT. She studied singing and speech and worked with injured servicemen during the Great War, subsequently establishing not one, but two schools of speech therapy. The first, in 1929, was at the West End Hospital (now University College London). She left in 1935, ostensibly to travel, but also following a disagreement with one of the senior staff, of whom she disapproved because of his ‘irregular’ (ie adulterous) relationship with a woman described as either his laboratory assistant or an SLT. The London Hospitals School (now at City, University of London), her second establishment, was founded in 1942. Winifred demonstrated huge tenacity by achieving all of this in the middle of wartime London, and went on to author a number of important publications.

Anne McAllister (1892-1983) was a Scot whose work as a phonetician in Glasgow morphed into speech therapy. ‘Dr Anne’, as she became known, first started teaching about speech disorders in 1919, and established the Glasgow School of Speech Therapy (celebrating 85 years this year) in 1935. As with so many other women in the field, Anne was renowned for being highly intelligent and knowledgeable, but she did not hold back when she was displeased.

Joan van Thal (1900-1970) was of Dutch and English heritage, and educated in England. She had wanted to become a doctor, but was not accepted to study medicine owing to her poor eyesight.Under the guidance of Elsie Fogerty after the Great War, Joan became an expert on cleft palate, publishing a book on the topic in 1934. Her greater claim to fame, however, is that during World War II she appears to have been the calatyst in bringing together the two competing speech therapy associations formed in the 1930s, resulting in the establishment of the College of Speech Therapists (now the RCSLT).

There are so many other impressive women who built this amazing profession—the stars in my own ‘speech therapy sky’ include Betty Byers Brown, Caroline Dunsmore (my wheelchair-using, poliosurviving boss in Canada), Brenda Kellett and Pam Enderby. Who are the inspirational women—and men—in your SLT world? Let us know on Twitter and join the conversation about gender diversity using #RCSLTwomen

Jois Stansfield, emeritus professor, Manchester Metropolitan University

March illustrations

To download the images above, once you’ve opened the link, right click on the image and ‘save image as…’.You can then save it to the most useful location for inclusion in your signature, desktop, or social media profile.

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