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  • Barry Planned To Travel To Venezuela, Where Women Could Practice Medicine on Random Facts About The Woman Who Disguised Herself As A Man For Decades To Practice Surgery Before Women Were Allowed

    (#5) Barry Planned To Travel To Venezuela, Where Women Could Practice Medicine

    Before transforming into James Barry, Margaret Ann Bulkley had befriended General Francisco de Miranda of Venezuela. Miranda almost certainly knew of Margaret's disguise. When renaming herself, Margaret honored Miranda by calling herself James Miranda Stuart Barry.

    After receiving a medical degree in 1812, Barry decided to travel to Venezuela. The country let female doctors practice, so Barry could give up the disguise. But General Miranda was behind bars by 1812, leaving Barry with few options besides continuing the deception.

    Barry soon enlisted in the British armed forces as a surgeon.

  • Other Medical Students Suspected Barry Was Lying - About His Age, Not His Gender on Random Facts About The Woman Who Disguised Herself As A Man For Decades To Practice Surgery Before Women Were Allowed

    (#4) Other Medical Students Suspected Barry Was Lying - About His Age, Not His Gender

    The other medical students at Edinburgh found James Barry suspicious. But they didn't suspect Barry was actually a woman in disguise.

    Instead, the suspicions rested on Barry's age. Because of his height, high voice, and smooth skin, many thought Barry was actually a child, perhaps a boy as young as 12 disguised as a man. After several years at Edinburgh, the medical school tried to bar Barry from sitting for his exams on suspicion that he was too young. Lord Erskine, a friend of the deceased James Barry, intervened to make sure Barry could take the exam. 

  • Barry's Doctor Said The Surgeon's Secret Was 'None Of My Business' on Random Facts About The Woman Who Disguised Herself As A Man For Decades To Practice Surgery Before Women Were Allowed

    (#12) Barry's Doctor Said The Surgeon's Secret Was 'None Of My Business'

    Major D.R. McKinnon was James Barry's doctor. When Barry passed in 1865, McKinnon signed the death certificate certifying that Barry was a man.

    In letters to the General Register Office that were later leaked, McKinnon said that Barry's gender was "none of my business." 

    Today, Barry's headstone in London's Kensal Green cemetery says nothing about the surgeon's secret.

  • Why Did Barry Choose To Live As A Man? on Random Facts About The Woman Who Disguised Herself As A Man For Decades To Practice Surgery Before Women Were Allowed

    (#14) Why Did Barry Choose To Live As A Man?

    For decades, people speculated about Barry's birth identity and why the doctor lived as a man for so many years. One newspaper claimed Barry was the illegitimate child of King George III. Charles Dickens declared Barry "A Mystery Still." Novels and plays told and retold Barry's life story.

    Today, we know that Barry was born Margaret Bulkley. We also know that Bulkley adopted a male persona to enroll in medical school. But today's debate over Barry uses different terms than the 19th century debate. What pronouns should we use (most use "he," but not all) when discussing Barry? Was Barry a trans pioneer? Or is Barry's story about women excluded from the professional world?

    The truth includes both: Bulkley couldn't pursue medicine without changing her gender, and Barry lived for decades as a trans man. As for the surgeon's true gender identity, that's one secret Barry took to the grave.

  • Barry Tried To Hide The Secret Even After The End  on Random Facts About The Woman Who Disguised Herself As A Man For Decades To Practice Surgery Before Women Were Allowed

    (#11) Barry Tried To Hide The Secret Even After The End

    In 1865, Barry turned 70. Nearing the end of his life, Barry declared that he did not want anyone to dress his body after his passing. In fact, Barry ordered that he be interred in the same clothes he perished in.

    But when Barry passed, his housemaid Sophia Bishop examined the body and discovered Barry's female anatomy. Bishop also uncovered another secret Barry had hidden - the body had stretch marks on its stomach, a sign of a previous pregnancy.

    Barry's disguise also concealed a painful past. As a teenager, Margaret Ann Bulkley had been violated by a family member. In the aftermath, Margaret gave birth and her mother raised the baby.

  • Wearing 3-Inch Shoe Inserts, Barry Enrolled In Medical School  on Random Facts About The Woman Who Disguised Herself As A Man For Decades To Practice Surgery Before Women Were Allowed

    (#3) Wearing 3-Inch Shoe Inserts, Barry Enrolled In Medical School

    In 1809, James Barry arrived at Edinburgh Medical School, one of the top medical schools in Europe. Barry wore a long overcoat and 3-inch shoe inserts. Fellow classmates remember Barry speaking in a high-pitched voice. 

    In fact, Margaret Bulkley had adopted a new name and gender to enroll in medical school before women were allowed to attend. Barry never took off his overcoat, even in summer, and stared down anyone who questioned his story.

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About This Tool

There are very few historical records about James Barry, who was a military doctor in the British Army in Cape Town, she fought for better food, better sanitation facilities, and medical care for prisoners, lepers, and soldiers. In 1826, she became the first British doctor to complete a Caesarean section. In the summer of 1865, when infectious dysentery raged in London, she died of the plague, and people discovered when she was buried that she was actually a woman.

The secret of Dr. Barry was revealed. She became the first woman to graduate from medical school in the UK and kept her gender secret for more than half a century. Army officials locked up her service records for nearly a century. The random tool shares 14 legendary stories of James Barry, her real name was Margaret.

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