Octavia Margaret Sophia Lewin 1869 – 1955

Octavia Margaret Sophia Lewin 1869 – 1955 MB, BS London 1896, MD Chicago (homeopathy) was a Registrar and the Assistant Physician the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital and an active suffragist.

Octavia Margaret Sophia Lewin was a close colleague, activist and confident (Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928, (Routledge, 2001). Page 423) of the Pankhurst family.

Octavia Margaret Sophia Lewin was a colleague of William Bayes, Charles Harrison Blackley, John Galley Blackley, George Henry Burford, James Compton Burnett, John Moorhead Byres Moir, John Henry Clarke, H A Clifton Harris, Andrew Tocher Cunningham, Robert Ellis Dudgeon, David Dyce Brown, John Epps, Washington Epps, Giles Forward Goldsborough, Gilbert Hare, Clarence Granville Hey, James Johnstone, Richard Hughes, Thomas Robinson LeadamEdwin Awdas Neatby, Alfred Crosby Pope, Mathias Roth, C T Knox Shaw, Harold Wynne Thomas, Charles Edwin WheelerDavid Wilson, James Craven Wood, Dudley d’Auvergne Wright, Stephen Yeldham and many others.

Octavia was a colleague of Andrew Tocher Cunningham and Dudley d’Auvergne Wright at the Hopital de L’Alliance in France in 1914.

Octavia practiced at 25 Wimpole Street, London in 1911, and at 8 Manchester Square, London in 1948.

Octavia was a member of the Women’s Freedom League* alongside Louisa Garrett Anderson, Teresa Billington Craig, Charlotte Despard, Elizabeth Knight, Sylvia Pankhurst, Dora Montefiore, Flora Murray and Annie Cobden Sanderson. She would have met Jane Addams and Helena Swanwick at the International Women’s League of Peace and Freedom in 1915, and known many of the women in the movement.

*The Women’s Freedom League was active between 1907 and1961, and was a militant women’s suffrage society formed by socialist dissidents from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

Octavia was active in homeopathy, and in 1903, on her return from America where she studied under James Tyler Kent, Octavia Lewin became the first woman to read a paper to the British Homeopathic Society, and she read a paper by James Tyler Kent entitled Cases Illustrating Constitutional Treatment, bringing about a revolution in homeopathy which influenced Octavia Lewin’s successors, Marjorie Blackie and Margaret Lucy Tyler.

From Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928, (Routledge, 2001). See also Cheryl Law, Women, A Modern Political Dictionary, (I.B.Tauris, 2000). Pages 95-96.  Octavia Lewin was born in Widford, Ware, Hertfordshire, the daughter of Spencer Robert Lewin a solicitor, and Jessie Augusta Cantwell. She was educated privately by a German governess, and at the Frances Holland School, Queens College in Harley Street and then at Girton College where she read Natural Sciences. (Arnott Scholar at Queens and Goldsmith Scholarship at Girton).

Octavia qualified in Medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women and at the Royal Free Hospital and at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, and she became the Assistant Physician at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital, and she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1906.

In 1907, Octavia became a founder member of the Women’s Freedom League, and also a supporter of the Tax Resistance League, the second annual meeting of which was held at her home.

Octavia was Honorary Secretary and lecturer of the Women’s Freedom League from 1913 until her death.

From Elizabeth Crawford, The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928, (Routledge, 2001). She refused to pay the levy on armourial bearings, that being the only tax that she was then in a position to withstand.

During World War I, she was the Aural Surgeon at the Women’s Hospital Corps at the Endell Street Military Hospital run by Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray.

In World War I, Octavia worked in France alongside Mabel Hardie. She was the Assistant Surgeon at the Military Hospital in Dieppe and at the French Militar Hospital in Charenton.

Octavia was also the Resident Medical Officer at Chorlton Union Infirmary and the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. She was an Assistant Anaesthetist at the Royal Free Hospital, specialising in Oto Rhinology, and she was Rhinologist for the Almeric Paget Corps, Medical Advisor to the Westminster Health Society and Rural Surgeon to the WAAC. Octavia was also the Clinical Assistant at the Central London Throat and Ear Hospital and Honorary Rhinologist for the Society of Women Journalists.

Octavia was a member of the British Homeopathic Society and an honorary member of the Faculty of Homeopathy, and she was active in many other Societies and she was also a prodidgeous writer.

In the 1930s, she was a member of the Council of Management of Bedford College.

3 thoughts on “Octavia Margaret Sophia Lewin 1869 – 1955”

  1. Thank you for posting this research. Octavia Lewin never married, but her sister (can’t remember her name) moved to Canada married and had children. One of these children was Jesse Lewin who married her cousin from England, thus she regained the Lewin name through marriage. I know this family history because I was with Jesse’s grand daughter for many years.
    Regards
    Harvey Shields

  2. Dear Sue
    Kieran Walsh is my name. I live in Widford – the birthplace of Octavia Lewin. Widford has a small parish magazine (circulation less than 300). I think that it is only available in paper. Would you mind if we copied your piece on Octavia Lewin for the magazine? We would of course attribute you and include a link back to your site. We are keen to remember women as well as men in the local Great War memorials.
    BW
    Yrs
    Kieran
    Dr Kieran Walsh

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