Plaque commemorating Dr. Ruth Bensusan Butt
A blue plaque to commemorate Dr Ruth Bensusan Butt was erected on the front of the Minories, 74 High Street in June 2016. Dr Bensusan Butt was born in South London in 1877, the daughter of an ostrich feather merchant. She made the decision to become a doctor when one of the household’s maids fainted and nobody knew what to do! She 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 and was a founder member of the Colchester Civic Society.