Agnes Bennett

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Agnes Bennett, OBE

Dr Agnes Bennett was one of Wellington's first female doctors in the early 1900s. 

When World War One broke out in 1914 Bennett tried to join up but was turned down – because she was a woman. Undeterred, she set off on her own to join the French Red Cross, but her ship stopped off in Egypt just as wounded men from the Gallipoli campaign started pouring into hospitals there. She was offered a position with the Medical Corps, with the status and pay of Captain – making her the first commissioned female officer to serve in the British Army. Next she joined an all-women medical unit in Serbia and then fought the 1918 flu epidemic in British hospitals.

In this excerpt from a radio interview Bennett explains how she was the first woman to drive a car in Wellington. For a GP making night-calls on patients, a car was a big improvement on the horse-drawn 'hansom' cabs she had to use when she started in 1904.

Find out more about Dr Agnes Bennett: 

Listen to the full recording of Dr Agnes Bennett talking about her life.  

Listen to her talk about treating Gallipoli's wounded. 

View Dr Agnes Bennett's photos from World War One.

Read some of her letters to other early women doctors. 

Image: Dr Agnes Bennett in army uniform, possibly taken between 1916 – 1917 while she was commanding officer of the 7th Medical Unit of the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service, Macedonia, Serbia, during World War One. Ref: PAColl-6972-12-25-1.Alexander Turnbull Library.

Catalogue Reference 32013

Year 1955


Excerpt: 0:01:21

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