Obituary: Professor Margaret Stacey ; Pioneer in the Sociology of Health and Illness

By Finch, Janet | The Independent (London, England), April 15, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Obituary: Professor Margaret Stacey ; Pioneer in the Sociology of Health and Illness


Finch, Janet, The Independent (London, England)


MARGARET STACEY was a major influence on British sociology for over 40 years; her pioneering research and her passionate commitments, both intellectual and practical, have left an indelible mark on the discipline.

She first made her mark through her beautifully crafted community study Tradition and Change: a study of Banbury published in 1960. Rooted in the tradition of British community studies which flourished in the post- Second World War environment, her work none the less stood out for its attention to detail, for her willingness to approach the data with an open mind and for the sharpness of intellect which produced a creative, rich and wholly convincing analysis. It marked her out as a leading figure in the development of the (then) very young discipline of sociology in the UK.

As her research agenda matured, Meg Stacey developed a strong interest in the sociology of health and illness, largely born of her experiences with her own children in hospital. She pioneered the development of this aspect of the discipline, with which her name is most strongly associated. Her particular focus of interest was in topics related to children's and women's interactions with health- care services. She published extensively on these topics, as well as undertaking innovative and influential conceptual work on constructions of health and illness.

Without compromising her intellectual rigour, Stacey's academic interests derived from her own personal commitments and led her into public service, and sometimes campaigning. Her standing in the world of health was attested by her appointment to the Welsh Hospital Board in 1970 and to the General Medical Council in 1976. She served on the latter body for eight years and, in parallel, produced some fine academic work on the topic of professional regulation in health.

A lifelong interest in gender issues, and the rights of women in particular, was another way in which her academic interests overlapped with her personal commitments. The early part of her own career had not been easy, because the academic world found it difficult to create a secure place for a young woman with five children, however talented and committed. But she succeeded and in 1974 was the first woman ever to be appointed to a professorship at Warwick.

She used the new security and influence of her position to foster the careers of other women sociologists, principally through her work for the British Sociological Association, which she served in various capacities including as its President in 1981-83.

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