Dorothy Stopford Price was a physician who was key to the elimination of childhood tuberculosis in Ireland by introducing the BCG vaccine. She was born on 9 September 1890 at Newstead, Clonskeagh, Co Dublin, to Jemmett Stopford, a civil servant, and Constance Kennedy.
The Stopford family had a long history in the Church of Ireland. Jemmett had worked as an accountant to the Irish Land Commission, part of the British civil service in Ireland. His father Edward Adderley Stopford was Rector of Kells and Archdeacon of Meath, and his grandfather was Edward Stopford, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath. The 1901 Census shows Jemmet, Constance and their children Alice, Edith, Dorothy and Robert living in the townland of Terenure, Dublin. Jemmett Stopford died from typhoid fever in 1902 and the family subsequently moved to London. Dorothy went to St Paul’s Girls’ School there, and in 1915 returned to Dublin to study medicine at Trinity College. She spent the Easter holidays in 1916 at the Under-Secretary’s Lodge at the Phoenix Park, home of Sir Matthew Nathan, one of the key figures in the British administration of Ireland. Although she did not seem to be a regular diarist, the tumultuous events of Easter Week impelled her to record what was happening around her. She clearly had sympathy for Sir Matthew, but she also became increasingly sympathetic to the 1916 Rebellion against British rule.
Dorothy’s nationalist views were strongly influenced by her aunt Alice Stopford-Green, who had set up the Africa Society in London, to campaign against colonial abuses. Stopford-Green had met Irish patriot, Roger Casement, and Sir Matthew through this society and was closely involved in the Howth gun-running which brought arms into the North Dublin port in 1914 to be used by the rebels in 1916. Alice’s house at 90 St Stephen’s Green became an intellectual centre for Irish nationalists. She supported the pro-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War and was among the first nominees to the newly formed Seanad Éireann in 1922, where she served as an independent member until her death in 1929.
After graduating as a doctor in 1921, Dorothy Stopford worked at the Kilbrittain dispensary in Cork, where she became medical officer to the local IRA brigade, and lectured on first aid to the women’s republican society, Cumann na mBan. Her biggest career achievements were through her involvements with tuberculosis. She was first exposed to the disease when John Richard Green, husband of her aunt, Alice Stopford Green, died from the condition. She resigned from the post in 1923, and two years later married Liam Price, a barrister, district justice and local historian from Wicklow. They lived in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin, and had no children.
Stopford Price worked for the rest of her life in St Ultan’s Hospital for Infants and in Baggot St Hospital, both in Dublin. She studied the TB vaccination (BCG) on the continent and pioneered its use in St Ultan’s in 1937, making it the first hospital in Ireland or Britain to use the BCG. She may have been motivated to pursue the idea of immunisation by the death of her father from typhoid fever, which by 1911 was also being combatted by vaccination. She was nominated for the World Health Organisation Leon Bernard prize for her contribution to social medicine, and was chairman of the National BCG Centre, set up at St Ultan’s in 1949. She was also consulting physician to the Royal National Hospital for Consumptives in Ireland. Her workload may have contributed to an attack of muscular rheumatism in 1939, and a stroke in the late 1940s. She died of a second stroke on 30 January 1954.
She was buried in St Maelruen’s graveyard in Tallaght, Co Dublin.
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