What Price the Children: the Work of Dorothy Price among the Dublin Poor
Photograph of Dorothy Stopford, graduating as a Bachelor of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin. 1921. TCD MS 7534/5
An exhibition to mark the centenary of the 1913 Lockout
As the city of Dublin commemorates the events of August 1913, the industrial dispute which led to the Lockout, the Library takes the opportunity to focus on one of the principal underlying causes of the unrest: the degrading levels of poverty experienced by the poorest citizens of Dublin. It was children who bore the brunt of this poverty, and who continued to live, and die, in the most abject circumstances long after the dust settled in 1913. Well into the 1930s the Dublin slums were notorious, disease-ridden sumps in which a high percentage of the population lived in one-roomed accommodation; the infant mortality rate, and the rate of tuberculosis (TB) infection, were much higher there than in anywhere else in Western Europe.
Dorothy Stopford Price (1890-1954) was a graduate of Trinity College's medical school; she devoted her entire professional life to the well-being of the poorest children of Dublin.
After studying medicine in Trinity College Dublin from 1916 to 1921 - gaining valuable clinical experience during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu epidemic - Dorothy Stopford, later Price, held a number of posts in Dublin-based hospitals, which exposed her to the full scale of infant mortality in general, and TB in particular. She was especially associated with St Ultan's Children's Hospital, founded by fellow combatants in the Irish Revolutionary War, Kathleen Lynn and Madeleine ffrench-Mullen, and with the Royal City of Dublin Hospital, whose radiological facilities she used to research children with TB.
Dorothy Price stands fourth from right; St Ultan's founders Madeleine ffrench-Mullen and Kathleen Lynn are first and third from left. TCD MS 7534/139.
Letter appointing Price as Children's Specialist of the Royal City of Dublin Hospital. 23 November 1932. TCD MS 7534/28.
Letter appointing Price as Consultant Physician to the Royal National Hospital for Consumption in Ireland. 12 November 1937. TCD MS 7534/204.
The Sunshine Home was founded in 1924 as a 'home for poor children, needing fresh air and sunshine', at a time when housing conditions for many in Dublin were among the worst in Europe. Price worked there during the 1920s and 1930s. TCD MS 7535/25.
Despite the scale of the TB problem in Britain and Ireland, specialists were reluctant to adapt new methods being pioneered in Europe, such as the BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine first used on humans in Paris in 1921. Ascribing this medical ignorance to doctors' reliance on English texts, Price went to study on the Continent, completing a postgraduate course in Bavaria in 1934; she represented St Ultan's at the International Hospitals Federation Congress, Rome in 1935; she worked under Dr A. Wassen, who had successfully introduced BCG to Sweden; and she visited hospitals in France, Austria and Norway. This study would inform Price's work on the tuberculosis problem in Ireland. Timetable for a refresher course in the diagnosis and treatment of TB, Scheidegg, Bavaria, September 1934. TCD MS 7534/63.
Photograph taken during a lecture at the Ospedale Maggiore, Turin, 1935. TCD MS 7534/83.
Notes taken by Price in Vienna in the mid-1930s. TCD MS 7534/47.
One of Price's main correspondents was Walter Pagel, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis, who was continuing his work on TB at the TB Colony, Papworth Village Settlement, near Cambridge, then the Central Middlesex Hospital, London. Pagel and Price exchanged and discussed each other's papers; in this paper Pagel surprisingly uses research on inmates from Nazi concentration camps. 7 October 1939. TCD MS 7535/117/2.
Dr Dorothy Price was the first doctor to introduce the BCG to the British Isles in 1937, sourcing the vaccine from her old teacher Dr Wassen in Gothenburg. Before that, she disseminated her ideas and best practice on the Continent, in a series of articles and lectures; she also brought international experts such as Pagel to Dublin, and completed a master's thesis on TB at TCD in 1935.
The photogragh shows The diagnosis of primary TB in the lungs of childhood - Dorothy Price's thesis for Degree of Doctor of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin. January 1935. This work was subsequently published in the Journal of Medical Science, and was the first presentation of European thinking on this subject in Ireland or in English. TCD MS 7534/68.
In order to get a licence for the BCG vaccine, Dr Price needed Dr Wassen to reassure a nervous Irish government about its efficacy. TCD MS 7534/145.
Package from Anders Wassen, Bakteriologiska Laboratoriet, Gothenburg, to Dorothy Price, St Ultan's Hospital, formerly containing BCG vaccine. 26 January 1937. TCD MS 7534/158a.
The successful introduction of BCG encouraged Price to take the fight against TB to the political arena, despite her paralysing shyness and the work's effect on her health. Her book Tuberculosis in childhood, published in 1942, was widely praised, and ran to a second edition. In 1943 she co-founded the Anti-Tuberculosis League with a number of doctors, and under the political patronage of General Mulcahy. Mulcahy was the future leader of Fine Gael and was Price's bitter enemy during the Irish Civil War. The future President of Ireland, Erskine Childers, was also involved. The League became the Anti-Tuberculosis Section of the Irish Red Cross, and organised a large-scale TB exhibition in the Mansion House, opened by an Taoiseach Éamon de Valera in 1945. One of the activists Price met on these campaigns was Dr Noël Browne. When he became Minister for Health in 1948, he appointed Dr Price to the Consultative Council on Tuberculosis, and located the National BCG Centre in St Ultan's, with Dorothy Price as its first chairman. Despite Price's pioneering work for nearly two decades, it would be Browne who would be remembered by posterity for eradicating TB.
Flyer for the Irish National Anti-Tuberculosis League. 15 February 1943 TCD MS 7536/276.
Flyer for the Tuberculosis Exhibition, Mansion House. 28 May 1945. TCD MS 7537/58.
Photograph of Dorothy Price with a nurse and a patient, possibly at St Ultan's Hospital. 29 May 1947. TCD MS 7537/208.
Letter from Noël Browne to Dorothy Price, on his appointment as Minister for Health. 28 February 1948. TCD MS 7538/30
Dr Price continued to work towards the eradication of TB throughout her life. Volunteer and charity work contributed to the success of the campaign. This dance-admission ticket refers to a holiday camp for children affected by the disease. TCD MS 7535/304, 308.
Dr Price continued to work towards the eradication of TB throughout her life. Volunteer and charity work contributed to the success of the campaign. This photograph pictures a holiday camp for children affected by the disease. TCD MS 7535/304, 308.
Dorothy Price inspired respect and admiration in all who knew her or knew of her work. Her husband, barrister and antiquarian Liam Price, endeavoured to secure her reputation after her death by writing a biography based on his wife's diaries. Dr Price's work has since begun to attract the attention it always deserved, and is the subject of essays in two books: J. Augusteijn (ed.) Ireland in the 1930s (1999) and L. Kelly, Irish women in medicine (2013). From TCD MS 7572