Barbara Roberts, Homeopath

International Women’s Day: Dr Margery Blackie

This is a belated International Women’s Day post- written for Friday, but life is busy and I forgot to set it up in advance. A few days late, but this is my annual post about an amazing woman in the history of Homeopathy: this year I’m writing about Dr Margery Blackie, who was best known as the Homeopath to the Queen.

Margery was born on 4 Feb 1898 to a family with a strong knowledge of homeopathy. Her Uncle was Dr James Compton Burnett, a well known medical Doctor turned Homeopath, although he died when she was 3.

Her family moved around the country when she was younger but at 13 moved to West London and there she went to school in Acton for the next 6 years and did very well. Her family were Wesleyan Christians, and this foundation of Christianity was important for Margery throughout her life. Her school had a focus on service and when war was declared when she was 16 1/2 they were recognised as a voluntary organisation and the girls all spent time knitting for servicemen.

Margery wanted to be a Doctor, and when she passed her matriculation examination in 1916 she was able to apply to the London Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine for Women. This was her only option as no other medical schools in London accepted female students. Margery was a dedicated student, and got through Medical school with perseverance and determination, despite not always doing well or passing exams on the first attempt. She qualified in her College exams in 1923, although did not pass her University exams until 1926. Despite this she was qualified to practice medicine based on the Royal College qualifications, and in 1924 became a Resident at the London Homeopathic Hospital.

Because of Margery’s previous experience in homeopathy in family life, she was already strongly inclined towards it and not put off by the negative attitudes in University. She later said that she considered herself lucky to have some knowledge of homeopathy during her studies, so that she could compare the two systems and then choose to go ahead and learn more about homeopathy.

At London Homeopathic Hospital she began to shine, saving the lives of patients with pneumonia in the years before antibiotics, and having fun with colleagues by “prescribing” remedies to characters in a play she went to with a colleague. In her second year at the hospital she began teaching at the next door Missionary School of Medicine to equip those who would be leaving Britain to be Missionaries in remote areas with basic medical skills to look after themselves, colleagues and the people in the community.

In 1926 Margery set up a private practice as a Homeopath in two locations, one at her home in Drayton Gardens, and a second at Fulham Road, after persuading the Pharmacist of a Homeopathic Dispensary that had been closed for 12 years to reopen. Word soon got around and she had patients waiting for her on her first day.

When Margery was 30 she obtained her Doctor of Medicine qualification, and was the only woman to do so that year. In 1932 she shared her first talk with the British Homeopathic Society on asthma, noting that she did not feel like an expert but that she had seen over 60 cases in her first 5 years of practice. Her paper was well received by the community and she was congratulated by many of the senior Homeopaths.

Margery became well versed in constitutional prescribing. During the war years she also worked with acute prescribing for the stress of the air raids. In the post war years, when sometimes stuck on a case she would write to the Scottish Homeopath Dr William Boyd for help from his Emanometer- an early radionic device that could analyse patient specimens and match with a homeopathic remedy. She read a short paper at the British Homeopathic Society in 1941 about cases where she had tried many remedies without success and the Emanometer produced one that worked. (In later years however, she was clear in her belief that radionics did not replace classical homeopathy).

In 1949 Margery became President of the British Faculty of Homeopathy. This was a time when Homeopathy was funded on the NHS and the post grad Homeopathy course had a high demand. She believed that the future of Homeopathy lay in training GPs in Homeopathy, which is something she discussed often. However after her three years she was asking what was the purpose of the Faculty, given only 10% of members attended the monthly meetings and that there was no encouragement or collegiality gained by attending.

The 1950s were a period of increasing pharmaceuticals, and while Margery did view most drugs with suspicion, she was also of the view that sometimes if you could not find the “homeopathic arrow”, the “orthodox blunderbuss” such as penicillin in a life threatening illness was needed.

In her 60s, Margery continued to work at the hospital during the week but on weekends moved out to Hedingham and lived a country gentlewoman lifestyle. Having always lived in town this was a new experience but she was able to take time to bird watch, having always been interested in birds.

The Royal Family had long been supporters of Homeopathy, and King George V had Sir John Weir as his Homeopathic Doctor. As he was aging, in 1967 Princess Alice wrote to Margery asking her to be her Homeopathic Advisor, and in 1969 – after Sir John retired at the age of 89- Margery Blackie was appointed Physician to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1970 Margery, as President of the British Homoeopathic Congress, was there introducing the Queen to many Homeopaths in a show of royal support for Homeopathy.

Margery was also an excellent teacher, running fully funded courses three times a year, inviting GPs from around the country to attend. However she became very concern with the movement towards Anthroposophy and away from Classical Homeopathy. The Homeopathic hospital was also using more mixed treatments and some patients were not getting any homeopathic treatment at all.

Margery published her book “The Patient, Not the Cure which had many stories in it of amazing cases, human and animal that she had helped. This increased interest in her clinic, and she had up to 300 letters a week after it was initially published.

Margery continued working until her 80s, but by this time her memory was not as acute- no longer able to remember the details from previous consultations without referring to notes, she was slightly deaf, and the intensive courses were exhausting. In 1979 she retired from many of her positions, and withdrew from running the intensive courses. She was heavily involved in the petition to save the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital from closing, which was somewhat successful, although the number of beds were reduced.

Margery died on 24 August 1981, peacefully after a stroke, at the age of 83.

Margery was an amazing Doctor and Homeopath who wholeheartedly lived and breathed homeopathy. Each case was that of an individual person and classical homeopathy, looking at the individual experience of that person instead of generalising for the condition was how she practiced and taught.

You can learn more about Margery in the book Champion of Homeopathy: The Life of Margery Blackie by Constance Babington-Smith.

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