Dr. Cicely Delphine Williams, OM, CMG (1893 - 1992) - The National Library of Jamaica

Dr. Cicely Delphine Williams, OM, CMG (1893 - 1992)

Born December 2, 1893 at Kew Park, Bethel Town, Westmoreland Jamaica. Cicely Delphine Williams the second daughter and fourth child of six which Margaret Farewell bore to James Rowland Williams. At a tender age, Cicely was involved in the caring of others, her mother along with a number of friends started a health clinic for young mothers. This is where Cicely and her sisters were taught first aid to help with emergencies.

In 1906, Cicely Williams went to England to study, she first attended Bath High School then Somerville College were she obtained her BA., in 1920.She then attended Oxford University were she obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery in 1923.  In 1938, she attained a Diploma in Tropical Nutrition and Hygiene.

As a result of extensive studies Cicely’s career took her to various countries but before her overseas travels, she did Montessori teaching in Kingston. In 1917, she worked as a Scientific Technician in Boston Massachusetts.  She then served as house physician to The South London Hospital for Women and Children and at Kings College.  In 1929, Dr. Williams then applied to the British Colonial Medical Service; she was posted to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) where she spent seven years. It was there she diagnosed Kwashiorkor (Protein Calorie Malnutrition – the disease of the displaced baby).

In 1936, she was transferred to Malaya as a Pediatrician to the College of Medicine in Singapore. Whilst in the state of Trengganu as State Medical Officer when the Japanese invaded in 1942, she became a prisoner of war and was placed in the notorious Changi Prison Camp. While imprisoned, she became the head of the women and children camp and was punished for taking a stand in their interest.  In 1945 the day of the allied victory over Nazi Germany found Cicely in the hospital near dead, she was nursed back to heath by some old Malayan friends. In 1948, Cicely became the first head of the World Health Organisation’s Maternal and Child Health organization in Geneva. In 1949, she was also the first appointed for the same Health Organisation’s Maternal and Child Health organization in South East Asia region.

Dr. Cicely Williams played a significant role in the Research Study of Vomiting Sickness among children in Jamaica between 1951 and 1953. During the years 1953-1955 Dr. Williams became Senior Lecturer in Nutrition at London University. In 1960, she went to Beirut as a professor of Maternal and Child Health at the American University where she remained for four years.  At age 70, in 1964 she became an adviser in the training programme of the Family Planning Association.

In her nineties Dr. Williams was an active speaker, giving speeches in Israel, Pakistan and Nepal.

Dr. Williams made a great contribution to literature by recording experiences and observations. Some of her publications are as follows:

“The story of kwashiorkor”, Courrier volume 13 page 361, 1963.

“A Nutritional Disease of children associated with a Maize Diet”, Archives of Disease in Childhood volume 8 page 423, 1933.

“Child Health in the Gold Coast”, the Lancet, January 8 1938 page 97.

“Whither Welfare”, British Medical Journal, volume 1 page 719, 1941.

Dr. Williams also co-authored a book with Dr. Derrick Jelliffe entitled “Mother and Child Health- Delivering the Services” which was published in 1972.


  • James Spence Memorial Gold Medal by the British Pediatrics Society, 1965.
  • Goldberger Award of the American Medical Association, 1967. (Dr. Williams was the first foreign recipient of this award)
  • Companion of the order of St. Michael and St. George C.G.M., 1968.
  • Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West Indies, 1969.
  • Martha Elliot Award in Maternal and Child Health, American Public Health, 1971.
  • Dawson Williams Prize in Pediatrics from the British Medical Association, 1972.
  • Honorary Degree from the University of Maryland and Honorary Citizenship of the State of Maryland, U. S. A., 1973.
  •  Order of Merit in recognition of distinguished work in the area of Maternal and Child Health and Infant Nutrition, 1975.
  • Food and Agricultural Organisation Ceres Medal Featuring Dr. Cicely Williams, 1977.

Dr. Cicely Delphine Williams a woman of whom not only Jamaica, but all, are justly proud died in England in 1992 at the age of 98.


  1. B/N National Library of Jamaica, Dr. Cicely Williams
  2. Craddock, S. Retired Except on Demand Life of Dr. Cicely Williams. Oxford: Green College, 1983.
  3. Dally, A. Cicely: The story of a Doctor. London: Victor Gollancz, 1968.
  4. Patterson, S.  A Small Corner Of The Jamaican Tapestry. : S.E. Paterson,1972