The feminist who waged war on smallpox

Jo Willett tells the story of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who pioneered smallpox inoculation almost a century before Edward Jenner

Portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) by Joseph Highmore (Photo by Alamy)

Mary Wortley Montagu is one of the most important figures in the battle to combat smallpox, so why is this 18th-century aristocrat so little-known today? Jo Willett, author of The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu, shares the story of a fiercely independent scientist, feminist and woman of letters who changed the course of medical history.


Jo Willett is the author of The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu: Scientist and Feminist (Pen & Sword, 2021)

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