Dr Laura Kelly

Senior Lecturer


Personal statement

I am Senior Lecturer in the History of Health and Medicine at the University of Strathclyde. I am Co-Director of the Centre for the Social History of Health and Healthcare (CSHHH) and a member of the Scottish Oral History Centre (SOHC). I joined the University of Strathclyde as a lecturer in 2015. Prior to that, I was awarded a PhD in History from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2011 and undertook an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland, University College Dublin (2012-14). 

My expertise lies in gender history and the social history of medicine in nineteenth and twentieth century Ireland. I have published on the history of women in the medical profession and on medical education and student culture in Ireland. My first monograph Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s: origins, education and careers was published by Manchester University Press in 2012 (paperback, 2015). My second monograph, Irish medical education and student culture, c.1850-1950 was published by Liverpool University Press in September 2017 (paperback, 2020). 

More recently, I have been researching the history of birth control in twentieth-century Ireland. This is the focus of my current project, 'Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92' which is funded by a Wellcome Trust research fellowship (2016-2021). A monograph based on this research is under contract with Cambridge University Press. I am also interested in the history of activism, particularly around reproductive and sexual health issues. I hold a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant for a project on Pro-life and Pro-Choice Activism in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. 

I am Chair of the School of Humanities Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (GEDI) committee and sit on the Faculty GEDI committee as the School representative. I currently serve on the Executive Committee of the Women's History Association of Ireland (International Secretary) and on the Executive Committee of the Society for the Social History of Medicine (Gazette editor). 


Debates on family planning and the contraceptive pill in the Irish magazine Woman's Way, 1963-1973
Kelly Laura
Women's History Review (2020)
Contraception and Catholicism in the twentieth century : transnational perspectives on medical, activist and intimate practices
Ignaciuk Agata, Kelly Laura
Medical History Vol 64, pp. 163-172 (2020)
The contraceptive pill in Ireland c.1964-79 : activism, women and patient-doctor relationships
Kelly Laura
Medical History Vol 64, pp. 195-218 (2020)
Irishwomen United, the Contraception Action Programme and the feminist campaign for free, safe and legal contraception in Ireland, c.1976-81
Kelly Laura
Irish Historical Studies Vol 43, pp. 269-297 (2019)
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson : early pioneer of women in medicine
Kelly Laura
The Lancet Vol 390, pp. 2620-2621 (2017)
'She has broken down the barrier of bigotry and exclusiveness and forced her way into the profession' : Irish women in medicine, c.1880s-1920s
Kelly Laura
Russian and Soviet Healthcare from an International Perspective Comparing Professions, Practice and Gender, 1880-1960 (2017) (2017)

More publications


In 2021/22 I am teaching the following modules:

  • V1346/V1468: Sex, medicine and society in Britain and Ireland, 1880s-1980s
  • V1988: Gender, health and modern medicine
  • V1715/V1716: Women's lives in Modern Ireland

I am director of the MSc in Health History and welcome enquiries from prospective students about this course.

I am also happy to hear from prospective students about PhD supervision in areas related to the social history of medicine.

I am supervisor to the following PhD students:

Jasmine Wood: Disability and intimacy in the lives of wounded British soldiers, 1914-45 (REA studentship)(second supervisor) 2017-
Georgia Grainger: A history of vasectomy in Britain from 1960 to the twenty-first century (REA studentship)(first supervisor) 2018-
Kristin Hay: An Oral History of Contraception and Abortion in Scotland, c.1960-2000 (Wellcome Trust funded)(first supervisor) 2018-
Rory Stride: An investigation of the ways deindustrialisation and resultant job losses impacted on women workers in Scotland (AHRC funded)(second supervisor) 2018-
Jois Stansfield: History of speech therapy in Britain

(first supervisor) 2021-

Recently completed PhD students:

  • Dr Mara Dougall: Writing Unity a Practice-led Exploration of Female Embodiment in Historical Fiction Set in Early Twentieth-Century Britain. (2021)


Research interests

  • The social history of medicine in modern Ireland
  • Gender and medicine
  • Contraception and reproductive health
  • Activism
  • History of sexuality
  • The medical profession
  • Medical education and student culture

I have received awards from the Wellcome Trust and the Irish Research Council, amongst others for my research and the organisation of international conferences, totalling £433,190 since I began postgraduate study in 2006. I have experience as PI on two projects, one, a Wellcome Trust fellowship in medical humanities on the topic of ‘Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92’ (2016-2021) and the other an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellowship for a project on the history of medical education and student culture (2012-2014). 

My current research project, funded by a Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities (June 2016 - February 2021), explores the history of contraception in Ireland, c.1922-92. This project examines four main themes: men and women's changing birth control practices and attitudes to contraception; the dissemination of knowledge about contraception; the stories of individuals prosecuted for the illegal sale and distribution of contraceptives; and the role of activist groups in debates on the legalisation of contraception. Utilising a range of sources including oral history interviews, women's magazines and archival material, the project will produce a variety of outputs and will help to place current debates on reproductive rights in Ireland in perspective.

I also hold a Carnegie Trust Research Incentive Grant for a project on Pro-life and Pro-Choice Activism in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. The project has three key objectives: 1) to explore the social backgrounds, motivations, and experiences of individual men and women involved in abortion activism; 2) to investigate the strategies, campaigns and provision of healthcare and support services by activist groups; 3) to examine the impact of activists on legal and medical professionals, church hierarchies and the public. 


Professional activities

Society for the Social History of Medicine (External organisation)
Reproductive and sexual health activism, c.1960–present
Elected Member of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (External organisation)
History (Organisational unit)
AHRC Peer Review College (External organisation)
History (Organisational unit)

More professional activities


Society for the Social History of Medicine Events (Discretionary Award)
Cresswell, Rosemary (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
Society for the Social History of Medicine Research Community (Discretionary Award)
Cresswell, Rosemary (Principal Investigator) Kelly, Laura (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 30-Jan-2025
Abortion activism in the Republic of Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s
Kelly, Laura (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 30-Jan-2022
An Oral History of Contraception and Abortion in Scotland c. 1960-2000 (Kristin Hay)
Kelly, Laura (Principal Investigator) Newlands, Emma (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2018 - 30-Jan-2022
Psychedelic Birth: R.D. Laing and the Transformation of Psychiatry (Visiting Fellowship: Wendy Kline)
Kelly, Laura (Principal Investigator)
02-Jan-2018 - 01-Jan-2019
Contraception and Modern Ireland, c.1922-92
Kelly, Laura (Fellow)
01-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2021

More projects