Dr Ethel Williams

Event date(s)

1 January 1896 to 1 January 1924


Dr Ethel Williams, Newcastle's first female doctor, radical suffragist and pacifist, moved to the city in 1896. Her initial home in Newcastle was on Ellison Place; she then lived on Osborne Terrace in Jesmond (1910-1924) and eventually settled in Stocksfield on Tyne. Williams's concern with social welfare influenced her work with women and children; she founded the Northern Women's Hospital in 1917. 

Williams was a member of the Liberal Party, Newcastle’s Literary and Philosophical Society, a Justice of the Peace, and chair of the North East Society for Women’s Suffrage. As the first woman to drive in the North East, her car was crucial to the women's suffrage movement, and she used her reputation as a doctor to lobby the City Council. Her politics became increasingly radical around the outbreak of World War One.  Frustrated with their attitude to women’s suffrage, she left the Liberals and worked with the Independent Labour Party. She joined pacifist groups, such as the Union of Democratic Control and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and provided support for Tyneside's women workers during the war. As secretary of the Newcastle Soldiers' and Workers' Council, she organised pro-Russian, anti-war meetings in the city. After the war, she continued to be active in the women's peace movement and her activism was centred on the issues of health, social welfare, education and international relations.   


3 Osborne Terrace
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear

Further reading

N. Todd, 'Ethel Williams: medical and suffrage pioneer', North East Labour History, Bulletin no. 30, 1996, pp. 19-21; D. Neville, To Make Their Mark, The Women's Suffrage Movement in the North East of England, 1900–1914 (1997); E. Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement, a Reference Guide, 1866–1928 (1999), p. 710; The Ethel Williams Collection, which includes some photographs and personal papers, is held in the Special Collections at the Robinson Library, University of Newcastle; The Newcastle Daily Journal covers some of Williams’ work, Local Studies Library at the City Library, Newcastle.