Plague Nurses and Lady Doctors


13:00 – 14:15 | SATURDAY 13 APRIL


In this special event, award-winning journalist and author Angela Saini (The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule) is joined by Dr Lara Thorpe (Plague Nurses, Marginality, and Fear during the Great Plague of 1665) and Kavitha Rao (Lady Doctors: The Untold Stories of India’s First Women Doctors) to explore the fascinating history of women and medicine. From early modern plague nurses battling an uncurable disease against a backdrop of stigma and fear, to the extraordinary 19th century Indian women who defied the odds to become professional doctors. This captivating event will draw out themes across the centuries to explore the exceptional and the everyday and open a unique window into the history of women.

About the speakers

  • Kavitha Rao: Kavitha Rao is a freelance journalist and writer. She has spoken at numerous literary fests, including The Times Lit Fest in Bengaluru, the Tata Lit Fest in Mumbai, and the Kasauli Lit Fest. She has also taught journalism at several colleges including the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media in Bangalore, Sophia College in Mumbai, and the Times College of Journalism in Mumbai. Kavitha’s work has been published in the Guardian, the New York Times, the South China Morning Post, the National, Quartz and several others. Her website is at
  • Angela Saini: Angela Saini is a journalist and author based in New York. She teaches science writing at MIT and her work appears regularly in National Geographic, Science and Foreign Policy. Her 2019 book Superior: The Return of Race Science was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize, and her latest, The Patriarchs: How Men Came to Rule, was a finalist for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing. Angela has a Masters in Engineering from the University of Oxford.
  • Dr Lara Thorpe: Lara Thorpe has been researching London’s Great Plague of 1665 for the past decade. In 2018 she completed her PhD examining the physicians, nurses, alchemists and quacks who offered care during the epidemic and the pills and potions they prescribed to combat it. Since then Lara has balanced new motherhood with a career supporting academics to translate their research into real world change. In her spare time she continues to trawl the archives studying the lives of ‘ordinary’ women, from breastfeeding mothers in seventeenth-century England to plural wives in early Mormonism.

Seven Wonders with Bettany Hughes


Thurs 11 April – British Library, London