Joan Malleson

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Joan Graeme Malleson, née Billson; 4 June 1899 14 May 1956) was an English physician, specialist in contraception and prominent advocate of the legalisation of abortion.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Physician professional who practices medicine

A physician, medical practitioner, medical doctor, or simply doctor, is a professional who practises medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining, or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments. Physicians may focus their practice on certain disease categories, types of patients, and methods of treatment—known as specialities—or they may assume responsibility for the provision of continuing and comprehensive medical care to individuals, families, and communities—known as general practice. Medical practice properly requires both a detailed knowledge of the academic disciplines, such as anatomy and physiology, underlying diseases and their treatment—the science of medicine—and also a decent competence in its applied practice—the art or craft of medicine.

Abortion is the ending of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus before it can survive outside the uterus. An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. When deliberate steps are taken to end a pregnancy, it is called an induced abortion, or less frequently "induced miscarriage". The unmodified word abortion generally refers to an induced abortion. A similar procedure after the fetus has potential to survive outside the womb is known as a "late termination of pregnancy" or less accurately as a "late term abortion".



Billson was born at Ulverscroft, Leicestershire. She was educated at Bedales School, where she became Head Girl, and studied medicine at University College, London from 1918, later moving to Charing Cross Hospital due to the hostility to female students she experienced at UCL. In 1923 she married the actor Miles Malleson; they divorced in 1940. She qualified in 1926 and worked for Holborn Borough Council and the West End Hospital for Nervous Diseases, developing an interest in the fields of fertility, reproduction and sexuality. [ citation needed ]


Ulverscroft is a civil parish in the Charnwood district of Leicestershire. It has a population of about 100. The population in 2011 is included in the civil parish of Newtown Linford. There is no village by the name, but there was previously an Ulverscroft Priory.

Leicestershire County of England

Leicestershire is a landlocked county in the English Midlands. The county borders Nottinghamshire to the north, Lincolnshire to the north-east, Rutland to the east, Northamptonshire to the south-east, Warwickshire to the south-west, Staffordshire to the west, and Derbyshire to the north-west. The border with most of Warwickshire is Watling Street.

Bedales School is a co-educational, boarding and day independent school in the village of Steep, near the market town of Petersfield in Hampshire, England. It was founded in 1893 by John Haden Badley in reaction to the limitations of conventional Victorian schools. Bedales is one of the most expensive public schools in the UK. For the school year 2015/2016, boarders' fees were £11,799 per term, a similar figure to that charged by Harrow (£11,095) or Eton (£11,090).

In 1931, while working for Ealing Borough Council, she became one of the first British doctors to provide birth control advice on behalf of a local authority. In 1935 she published The Principles of Contraception, a practical guide. She became a member of the executive committee of the National Birth Control Association (later the Family Planning Association). [1] In 1936 the Abortion Law Reform Association was started by Alice Jenkins and Janet Chance. [2] Malleson was amongst its more influential supporters. [3]

Municipal Borough of Ealing

Ealing was a local government district from 1863 to 1965 around the town of Ealing which formed part of the built up area of London until 1965, where it officially became part of Greater London.

Birth control method of preventing human pregnancy or birth

Birth control, also known as contraception and fertility control, is a method or device used to prevent pregnancy. Birth control has been used since ancient times, but effective and safe methods of birth control only became available in the 20th century. Planning, making available, and using birth control is called family planning. Some cultures limit or discourage access to birth control because they consider it to be morally, religiously, or politically undesirable.

Family Planning Association organization

FPA is a UK registered charity working to enable people to make informed choices about sex and to enjoy sexual health. It is the national affiliate for the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the United Kingdom. It celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2010. Its motto is "Talking sense about sex".

She courted controversy by supporting the campaign to reform the abortion law. In 1938 she precipitated one of the most influential cases in British abortion law when she referred a pregnant fourteen-year-old rape victim to gynaecologist Aleck Bourne. He performed an abortion, then illegal, and was put on trial for it. Malleson gave evidence at the trial and Bourne's acquittal set a precedent that doctors could not be prosecuted for performing an abortion in similar circumstances. [3] Malleson was also a supporter of eugenics and member of the Eugenics Society. In 1950 she was appointed head of the contraceptive clinic at University College Hospital. [3]

Abortion law Laws that permit, prohibit or regulate abortion

Abortion law permits, prohibits, restricts, or otherwise regulates the availability of abortion. Abortion has been a controversial subject in many societies through history on religious, moral, ethical, practical, and political grounds. It has been banned frequently and otherwise limited by law. However, abortions continue to be common in many areas, even where they are illegal. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), abortion rates are similar in countries where the procedure is legal and in countries where it is not, due to unavailability of modern contraceptives in areas where abortion is illegal.

Rape type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse without consent

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority, or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent. The term rape is sometimes used interchangeably with the term sexual assault.

Gynaecology science of the treatment of diseases of the female sexual organs and reproductive tract

Gynaecology or gynecology is the medical practice dealing with the health of the female reproductive systems and the breasts. Outside medicine, the term means "the science of women". Its counterpart is andrology, which deals with medical issues specific to the male reproductive system.


She died at age 56 from a heart attack while swimming off Suva, Fiji. [3]

Myocardial infarction interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart

Myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow decreases or stops to a part of the heart, causing damage to the heart muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Often it occurs in the center or left side of the chest and lasts for more than a few minutes. The discomfort may occasionally feel like heartburn. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling faint, a cold sweat, or feeling tired. About 30% of people have atypical symptoms. Women more often present without chest pain and instead have neck pain, arm pain, or feel tired. Among those over 75 years old, about 5% have had an MI with little or no history of symptoms. An MI may cause heart failure, an irregular heartbeat, cardiogenic shock, or cardiac arrest.

Suva Place in Viti Levu, Fiji

Suva is the capital and largest metropolitan city in Fiji. It is located on the southeast coast of the island of Viti Levu, in the Rewa Province, Central Division.

Fiji Country in Oceania

Fiji, officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean about 1,100 nautical miles northeast of New Zealand's North Island. Its closest neighbours are Vanuatu to the west, New Caledonia to the southwest, New Zealand's Kermadec Islands to the southeast, Tonga to the east, the Samoas and France's Wallis and Futuna to the northeast, and Tuvalu to the north. Fiji consists of an archipelago of more than 330 islands—of which 110 are permanently inhabited—and more than 500 islets, amounting to a total land area of about 18,300 square kilometres (7,100 sq mi). The most outlying island is Ono-i-Lau. The two major islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, account for 87% of the total population of 898,760. The capital, Suva, on Viti Levu, serves as the country's principal cruise-ship port. About three-quarters of Fijians live on Viti Levu's coasts, either in Suva or in smaller urban centres such as Nadi—where tourism is the major local industry—or Lautoka, where the sugar-cane industry is paramount. Due to its terrain, the interior of Viti Levu is sparsely inhabited.

Related Research Articles

Eugenics Theory and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population through selective breeding

Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aim to improve the genetic quality of a human population by excluding certain genetic groups judged to be inferior, and promoting other genetic groups judged to be superior. The definition of eugenics has been a matter of debate since the term was coined by Francis Galton in 1883. The concept predates the term; Plato suggested applying the principles of selective breeding to humans around 400 BCE.

Family planning planning of when to have children, and the use of birth control and other techniques to implement such plans

Family planning services are defined as "educational, comprehensive medical or social activities which enable individuals, including minors, to determine freely the number and spacing of their children and to select the means by which this may be achieved". Family planning may involve consideration of the number of children a woman wishes to have, including the choice to have no children, as well as the age at which she wishes to have them. These matters are influenced by external factors such as marital situation, career considerations, financial position, any disabilities that may affect their ability to have children and raise them, besides many other considerations. If sexually active, family planning may involve the use of contraception and other techniques to control the timing of reproduction. Other techniques commonly used include sexuality education, prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections, pre-conception counseling and management, and infertility management. Family planning as defined by the United Nations and the World Health Organization encompasses services leading up to conception and does not promote abortion as a family planning method, although levels of contraceptive use reduces the need for abortion.

Abortion in New Zealand is legal in cases where the pregnant woman faces a danger to her life, physical or mental health, or if there is a risk of the fetus being handicapped in the event of the continuation of her pregnancy. In cases not protected by these grounds, performing an abortion on a woman or girl is a crime in New Zealand under the Crimes Act 1961. Regulations in New Zealand require that abortions after 12 weeks gestation be performed in a "licensed institution", which is generally understood to be a hospital. Abortions must be authorised by two doctors, one of whom must be a gynaecologist or obstetrician. However, doctors can refuse to authorise the procedure, in which case the woman must find another doctor and plead her case with them until she has the permission of two doctors, and also a qualified surgeon if neither of those doctors are licensed to perform the operation. Counselling is optional if the woman desires it, but is not mandatory under current abortion law. There is no statutory definition of fetuses or embryos as "unborn children" within New Zealand abortion law.

Abortion Rights (organisation)

Abortion Rights is an advocacy organisation that promotes access to abortion in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 2003 by the merger of the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) and the National Abortion Campaign (NAC). The ALRA campaigned effectively after World War II for the elimination of legal obstacles to abortion and the peak of its work was the Abortion Act 1967.

History of abortion Histoire de lavortement

The practice of abortion—the termination of a pregnancy—has been known since ancient times. Various methods have been used to perform or attempt an abortion, including the administration of abortifacient herbs, the use of sharpened implements, the application of abdominal pressure, and other techniques.

Alice Mary Bush was a pioneering New Zealand female physician, pediatrician and activist for family planning services and abortion access.

Lillie Elizabeth Goodisson was a Welsh Australian nurse and a pioneer of family planning in New South Wales.

Timeline of reproductive rights legislation, a chronological list of laws and legal decisions affecting human reproductive rights. Reproductive rights are a sub-set of human rights pertaining to issues of reproduction and reproductive health. These rights may include some or all of the following: the right to legal or safe abortion, the right to birth control, the right to access quality reproductive healthcare, and the right to education and access in order to make reproductive choices free from coercion, discrimination, and violence. Reproductive rights may also include the right to receive education about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and freedom from coerced sterilization, abortion, and contraception, and protection from gender-based practices such as female genital cutting (FGC) and male genital mutilation (MGM).

Helena Rosa Wright was an English pioneer and influential figure in birth control and family planning both in Britain and internationally. With her husband she undertook missionary work in China for five years. She qualified as a medical doctor, later specialising in contraception medicine. Helena became renowned as an educator and also as a campaigner for government funded family planning services and became associated with international organisations promoting population control programmes. She was the author of several books and training guides on birth control, sex education and sex therapy.

The Eastview Birth Control Trial was an important event in the history of contraception in Canada. In keeping with contemporary Christian views on contraception, the dissemination of information and the possession of materials relating to birth control were illegal in Canada. The trial was the first successful legal challenge, and it marked the beginning of a shift in Canadian society's acceptance towards such practices.

Birth control movement in the United States

The birth control movement in the United States was a social reform campaign beginning in 1914 that aimed to increase the availability of contraception in the U.S. through education and legalization. The movement began in 1914 when a group of political radicals in New York City, led by Emma Goldman, Mary Dennett, and Margaret Sanger, became concerned about the hardships that childbirth and self-induced abortions brought to low-income women. Sanger, in particular, simultaneously sought to connect birth control to the organized eugenics movement, regularly appealing to the authority of eugenic scientists Karl Pearson, Charles Davenport, and others in her Birth Control Review from the early 1920s. Such figures sought to prevent population segments they deemed genetically 'undesirable' from reproducing. While seeking legitimacy for the birth control movement partly through the approval of organized eugenics, Sanger and other activists also worked on the political front. Since contraception was considered to be obscene at the time, the activists targeted the Comstock laws, which prohibited distribution of any "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials through the mail. Hoping to provoke a favorable legal decision, Sanger deliberately broke the law by distributing The Woman Rebel, a newsletter containing a discussion of contraception. In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, but the clinic was immediately shut down by police, and Sanger was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Birth control in the United States

Birth control in the United States is a complicated issue with a long history.

Abortion-rights movements

Abortion-rights movements, also referred to as pro-choice movements, advocate for legal access to induced abortion services. The issue of induced abortion remains divisive in public life, with recurring arguments to liberalize or to restrict access to legal abortion services. Abortion-rights supporters themselves are frequently divided as to the types of abortion services that should be available and to the circumstances, for example different periods in the pregnancy such as late term abortions, in which access may be restricted.

Janet Chance was a British feminist writer, sex education advocate and birth control and abortion law reformer.

Vera Houghton British womens health campaigner

Vera Houghton, Baroness Houghton of Sowerby, was a British women's health campaigner, chair of the Abortion Law Reform Association and founder of the Birth Control Trust. She also served as a Vice President of the British Eugenics Society from 1964–1966 and again in 1969 when it was reformed as the Galton Institute.

Dame Margaret June Sparrow is a New Zealand medical doctor, reproductive rights advocate, and author.

Abortion in Uganda is illegal unless performed by a doctor who believes pregnancy places the woman's life at risk. The Ugandan Ministry of Health estimates that as of 2008, 26% of all maternal deaths result from abortion complications. This is aggravated by legal, socioeconomic, and geographical barriers to safe abortion, which compel women to use unsafe abortion methods and deter them from seeking post-abortion medical care. Contraception is not commonly used, leading to Uganda’s need for family planning.

Alice Jenkins or Alice Brook; born Alice Glyde was a British abortion campaigner. She co-founded the Abortion Law Reform Association which did reform UK law. Her book "Law For The Rich" proved pivotal in the creation of the UK's 1967 Abortion Act which made abortion accessible in mainland Britain eight days before she died.

Eugenic feminism a term that describes areas of the womens suffrage movement which overlapped with eugenics

Eugenic feminism is a term that describes areas of the women's suffrage movement which overlapped with eugenics. Originally coined by the eugenicist Caleb Saleeby, the term has since been applied to summarize views held by some prominent feminists of the United States. Some early suffragettes in Canada, particularly a group known as The Famous Five, also pushed for eugenic policies, chiefly in Alberta and British Columbia.

Hispanic eugenics are a positive eugenics based around political purification of a people. These ideas were first expounded upon in the 1930s by men like Antonio Vallejo Nájera and Gregorio Marañón. It was heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism. Much of this was realized through women's bodies in Spain, through Francoists policies around the role of women.


  1. Leathard, Audrey (1980). The Fight for Family Planning: The Development of Family Planning Services in Britain 1921-74. Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
  2. Stephen Brooke, ‘Jenkins , Alice Brook (1886–1967)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2006; online edn, May 2008 accessed 24 Oct 2017
  3. 1 2 3 4 D. E. Martin, ‘Malleson , Joan Graeme (1899–1956)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 24 Oct 2017