For those lucky enough to be within coo-ee of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, some interesting events on Women Making Waves are taking place there.
One unusual name that caught my eye in the list of forthcoming talks was that of Dr Attracta Rewcastle, whose medals and papers are in the possession of the Museum, and who was the first female commissioned officer in the Royal Navy to attain the rank of Surgeon Lieutenant Commander.
|The Launceston Examiner, 31 March 1940.|
Born Attracta Genevieve Candon in 1897 in Roscommon, Ireland, she received her medical training in Galway and Dublin. After working as house physician in Dublin she was appointed assistant school medical officer for Sheffield and during the 1930s assisted at the Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street.
In 1926, she had married the future politician and judge with the equally memorable names of Cuthbert Snowball Rewcastle and they had three children.
At the outbreak of World War II, Attracta was appointed Medical Superintendent of the WRNS and in 1940 was commissioned in the RNVR (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) which qualified her as the first woman doctor to be appointed to the Royal Navy. In 1945, she was promoted to Surgeon Lieutenant-Commander, the only woman to hold this rank, and she played a major role in maintaining an efficient medical service for service women. She received an OBE for her wartime services.
Never just a doctor, Attracta was also active in politics and religious affairs. A staunch Roman Catholic, she was also president of the Catholic Women’s League prior to WW2 and chairman of the National Board of Catholic Women post-war.
After she retired from her Navy career, she resumed her work as a specialist in the diseases of women and children and was also a member of both the Westminster and London City Councils. In the 1950 General Election, she stood as a Tory for West Willesden but did not succeed. She died in February 1951, just two months before her son was tragically lost in the sinking of the submarine HMS Affray.
As the letter at the end of her obituary in The Times states, she was yet another woman who "... deserved far more recognition than she ever received."
|Obituary from The Times, February 1951|
Another article about her work can be found in this edition of the Catholic Womens League newsletter, scroll down to page 9, although her date of death is incorrect as she predeceased her son in 1951.
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