Family Roots: Hartlepool’s first female doctor

Margaret Gibb, the first woman doctor in Hartlepool
Margaret Gibb, the first woman doctor in Hartlepool

DOES anyone remember Dr Margaret Gibb who had a claim to fame in Hartlepool – and certainly influenced many people’s lives?

Forty three years ago today, she retired from general practice after 36 years as the town’s first female doctor.

In 1961, she told the Northern Daily Mail how life had not always been easy as a GP in Hartlepool. Traditional attitudes were difficult to overcome, she told our reporter.

After first working as a house surgeon at Hartlepool Hospital, she took over the practice, which was originally set up by her father, in 1938.

A report in the paper at the time said: “At first the going was tough.

“A female doctor was practically unheard of, and would-be patients were inclined to distrust any woman in medicine.”

In her first few weeks, she “embroidered a set of table mats” because there were so few clients and so much time on her hands.

But her skills soon won over the patients and “she was accepted as readily as her father,” our report said.

After that, she became part of the Hartlepool tapestry and never looked back, enjoying more than two decades as a town doctor.

“She became not only the surgeon but the valued friend of many hundreds of people.”

At the time that she was in charge, Hartlepool had health problems including high levels of tuberculosis, pneumonia and infant mortality.

And although there had been massive progress by the time she came to retire, Dr Gibb explained that too many people were too health-conscious and spent much time talking about their operations or inventing ailments.

She planned to spend her retirement learning to cook by going to the Ethol Crescent School of Domestic Science, in Edinburgh.