Skip links

And …………..Our Inspirational Members!

Dr DORIS ODLUM 1890-1985

Dr Doris Odlum 1890-1985
Dr Doris Odlum 1890-1985

A former member who as a celebrated Consultant Psychiatrist founded a charity now known as Dorset MIND

Dr Doris Odlum, a consultant psychiatrist, was another prominent Bournemouth Soroptimist. Few women attained such positions in the medical profession so early in the 20th Century, and she was well regarded both locally and at national level.

After a secondary education at Talbot Heath School, she went to St Hilda’s College, Oxford and as a student supported women’s suffrage and peace campaigns. She first trained as a teacher but then decided to switch to medicine, attending St Mary’s Hospital Medical School. Her studies here were interrupted since she joined the Women’s Voluntary Reserve Corps during the First World War. Her duties included commanding a forage guard in the New Forest.

But by 1927 she had qualified, and was specialising in psychiatry. She held positions at Lady Chichester’s Hospital in Brighton, followed by appointments at Maudsley and Elizabeth Garret Anderson’s, in London.

In 1928 she persuaded the Board of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Boscombe to appoint her as a Consultant Psychiatrist. Her first application for the position was refused on the grounds of her sex since they had never employed a woman at this level before. She prevailed and remained at RVH for the remainder of her career. She wrote many books, including, “ Adolescent and Child Psychiatry”, and later endowed a research prize at the British Medical Association.  She was a co-founder of both the psychiatric department and child guidance clinic at the R.V.H.

Doris was involved with numerous organisations such as the Medical Women’s’ Federation, The Medical Women’s Association, The European League for Mental Hygiene and was a Foundation Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

In 1947, Doris’s energy and insight lead her to help found The Bournemouth Association for Mental Health- a charity now known as Dorset MIND.  In 1948, as part of the BMA‘s Psychological Medicine Group she helped convince the Government to include mental health treatment in the new National Health Service.  She was also heavily involved in the formation of the local branch of the Samaritans and in 1973 was made Life President.

Doris gave very interesting talks to members of our Club, keeping them informed of developments in her field and raising awareness of progress in the treatment of those suffering from mental health issues.  One of our current members, Pam Baker, remembers Dr Odlum from her own time at the Royal Victoria Hospital. She describes her as someone ” with a strong personality”, but said that where her patients were concerned she had a ” kind and deep understanding of their varied problems”.
A worthy tribute to a remarkable woman.


One of our former members may be the only Soroptimist to be celebrated inside a British passport! So……….#WhoIsShe?

Our club is immensely proud to be able to claim Elisabeth Scott, the architect, as a former member. She was born in our town and had to convince her father to send her to a good secondary school because she wanted to train to be an architect. Until then, girls in her family had only been educated at home. So at at 14 she went to board at Redmoor School in Canford Cliffs (1913-1917) where she passed her Higher Certificates with excellent marks.

The Architectural Association had only just started to accept women onto their courses, and Elisabeth was very much in the minority when she was offered a place. She graduated in 1924 and began her long and successful career.

In 1928 she became a public figure when her design for a new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford on Avon won an international competition. Still not able to vote because of her age and sex, she was legally entitled to form a business partnership. So she started her own practice and continued running this until the Second World War.

Whilst living in London she had become a member of The National Society for Women’s Service, a forerunner of the Fawcett Society. Here, she was part of a circle of women who were trying to work towards and support women’s entry into the professions. Some of her designs from that period reflected those ambitions, for example the Fawcett Building at Newnham College, Cambridge and the Marie Curie Hospital in Swiss Cottage, London.

The war and its impact on her practice, caused Elisabeth to return to Bournemouth early in the 1940s. At first she undertook work for local architects. In particular, Ronald A. Phillips and Jackson, Green, Down & Partners. As the immediate post war restraints were lifted, Bournemouth Borough Council employed her to design theatres on Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers. She continued working for them for about ten years, only retiring in 1968 at the age of 70.

Past members of our club remembered that Elisabeth had a hand in the designs of South Kinson Infants School in Moore Avenue, which was opened in 1951 and a property near Cemetery Junction, Bournemouth. As an employee of the Council she was probably the designer of Boscombe Pier Entrance Building, which has been listed by English Heritage, although her departmental head, John Burton is credited as the architect. She may well have been responsible for other Municipal buildings erected in that period.

We have a record in our club minutes that Elisabeth was asked to draw up plans to adapt a property which the Club bought for charitable reasons in 1951.

More recently we were delighted when we discovered that Elisabeth’s image was to be used inside the 2015-2020 issue of British Passports as part of a series celebrating the UK’s creative and cultural contributions to the world.

We very much hope that Elisabeth’s efforts towards women’s progress and the Bournemouth landscape will be recognised one day in the town of her birth.