A blue plaque for Dr Ruth Bensusan-Butt

A blue plaque commemorating Dr Ruth Bensusan-Butt1877-1957, was unveiled on Sunday 5th June. The plaque was erected by Colchester Civic Society near to the front door of the Minories, where Dr Ruth lived and worked from 1915 to 1957.
The plaque was unveiled by Prof Simon Shorvon, Dr Ruth’s grandson, and Dr Elizabeth Hall, another of Colchester’s pioneering woman doctors and founder of St Helena Hospice. Dr Hall is also a Civic Society member.
Dr Ruth, who trained at the Royal Free Hospital in London, qualified in 1904 and became a MD in 1908. After gaining experience in Italy, Switzerland, Ireland and elsewhere in the UK, she came to Colchester in 1910 with her new husband, Geoffrey Butt, who had taken up a post as an accountant in the town. They lived first on North Hill before moving to the Minories.
Dr Ruth was the first woman doctor in the town. A Fabian, a member of the Labour Party, a suffragist, she had a huge social conscience and she threw herself into the task of making life better for the poor, for children and for women in the town. She harangued landlords about the state of their properties until repairs were made. She opened a day nursery at the Minories, she started antenatal classes, she was instrumental in establishing the first Maternity Hospital in Colchester. She opened social clubs for soldiers. She took her duties as a member of the Board of Governors of the workhouse very seriously and fought to instil that same ethic in her fellow board members.
Besides doing her best for her patients – she is remembered as a very forthright, formidable, rather frightening, GP but one who was prepared to move mountains if the need arose – she also did her best for the whole community, standing as a Labour Councillor in 1922, winning the election and remaining on the Council until 1935 when she became an Alderman. She also founded the Colchester Inner Wheel, the Colchester Professional Women’s Club and the Colchester branch of the Medical Women’s Federation. She became President of the Colchester Medical Society in 1934. She was the first woman to attend the Oyster Feast, which she did in 1921.
Dr Ruth had three children, John, and twins, David and Barbara. John was a well known Colchester artist and historian.

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