A PIONEER and trailblazer within the British dental sector who became the first ever Dame in the profession has passed away.

Dame Margaret Seward was born in Weymouth on August 5 1935 as Felicity Bridgett Oldershaw.

At the age of two she was adopted and her name changed to Margaret Helen Elizabeth Mitchell, until she was married in 1962 and became Margaret Seward.

Bournemouth Echo: Dame Margaret and her husband Gordon at Buckingham PalaceDame Margaret and her husband Gordon at Buckingham Palace

Margaret paved the way for women in the dental industry and made a mark on the industry herself, with the lists of firsts she accomplished quite extensive.

Dentistry was always the path she was going to walk down, and in an account of her life, said she always wanted to be a dentist.

Margaret said: "My father was a dentist, the practice was in the house and the patients were friendly and seemed to come out looking happier. I never really thought about doing anything else."

Margaret was the first ever Dame within the profession, the first female resident dental house surgeon at the London Hospital, the first woman to be elected to the dentists governing body of the General Dental Council as well as its first female president, and the first female to be named Chief Dental Officer for England.

Not only that, she was also the second woman to be elected president of the British Dental Association.

Her impressive career began after she graduated from The London Hospital as a dentist in 1959.

She was particularly attracted to oral surgery and was the first woman to get the resident house job at the hospital.

Margaret then went on to do her Fellowship in Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.

After spending two years at Highlands General Hospital in North London as the consultant, she married Professor Gordon Seward who had been her senior registrar at the London Hospital.

She then had her children Pamela Lisseter (nae Seward) and Colin Seward before returning to work when they were five and three years old.

Speaking in the account of her life, Margaret said: "I’d been doing a project with the Department of Health about women returning to work and the difficulties that they, like I, had had getting back on the ladder.

"This was the 1975 Women in Dentistry Survey, and when that was published, my name was starting to get known.

Bournemouth Echo: Dame Margaret with her first grandchild Jake and her daughter-in-lawDame Margaret with her first grandchild Jake and her daughter-in-law

"I suddenly got a call inviting me to be the editor of the British Dental Journal (BDJ), another job I never applied for. I was in the right place at the right time, and I grasped the opportunity."

On being appointed editor of the BDJ in 1979 Margaret began to instigate many changes.

She commissioned more general practitioner related articles, which included sugar-free recipes; organised study tours abroad; and produced numerous books and continuing education initiatives.

Margaret restructured the title of the British Dental Journal over the course of 13 years, from 1979 to 1992, to become more relevant for general practitioners.

Her work also extended to the International Dental Journal, the World Dental Federation's publication, which she was the editor of from 1990 to 2000.

During her career, Margaret had not only been the first woman President of the British Dental Association (BDA) for nearly half a century, but she was also the first ever woman President of the General Dental Council (GDC).

Margaret said: "Knowing I was coming up for retirement, my local BDA branch, Middlesex and Hertfordshire, put my name forward for BDA president. I never expected to be voted in the first time I was put forward, but it happened.

"As president elect in 1992, I spent the year helping to plan the Conference: a huge effort but good fun."

Margaret moved to Bournemouth in 1994 and retired from the role of Chief Dental Officer in 2002.

In retirement she got involved with the local community and did spells as Secretary of Richmond Hill St Andrew's United Reformed Church and was Chairman of Bournemouth and Poole National Trust.

In 1994, Margaret was honoured with a CBE and five years later, in 1999, she became the First Dame of Dentistry.

A year later she was headhunted by the Department of Health to look at modernising NHS dentistry as Chief Dental Officer for England.

In 2004, Margaret was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at The Dental Awards.

Finally, Margaret really retired.

Bournemouth Echo: Dame Margaret and husband Professor Gordon Seward at Bournemouth beach Dame Margaret and husband Professor Gordon Seward at Bournemouth beach

She and Gordon lived by the sea and spent their time travelling, entertaining, going to the theatre, walking and spending time with their family, including their two grandchildren.

Margaret died on Thursday, July 22 2021 aged 85.

Her funeral will be held on Monday, August 9 at the Richmond Hill St Andrew’s United Reformed Church in Bournemouth.

You can visit a memorial page to Margaret here, where you can leave a message and make a donation: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/SomeoneSpecial/MargaretSeward

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