Mary Wortley Montagu and the Fight to Cure Smallpox

  • Discussion
  • Speech-to-text
Photograph of a laptop on a desk. On the laptop screen is a live event, the speaker Jo Willett is on the screen with a red telephone icon in the top left-hand corner of the screen. She has short dark brown hair and is wearing a pink top. She is sitting on a sofa with a bookshelf behind her. Around the laptop, there is a vase with sprigs of pink blossom and a cup with a glass bottle of water.
Library Insights: Jo Willett, Photo: Kathleen Arundell. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

What you’ll do

Join writer and BAFTA Award-winning TV producer Jo Willett in this online event to explore and celebrate the life of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who played a key role during an outbreak of smallpox in 1721.

During her travels in Turkey, Montagu witnessed the power of inoculation and defied the medical establishment back in England when she brought back the practice, ensuring that her three-year-old daughter became the first person inoculated in Western Europe. This April marks 300 years since this smallpox epidemic, and this event will feature material from Wellcome Collection to illustrate this deadly disease.

Jo Willet will reflect on how Montagu’s life and legacy have been remembered, though often ignored, as typical of the treatment of women in science.

You will be able to watch this event on Wellcome Collection’s YouTube channel, and submit questions in advance or during the event using Slido. Your microphone and camera will not be on. After booking a ticket you will receive an email with joining instructions.

About your speaker

Photograph of Jo Willett

Jo Willett

Jo Willett is a BAFTA Award-winning TV producer. Her first book, ‘The Pioneering Life of Mary Wortley Montagu’, is published in March 2021.



Tickets via Eventbrite

Need to know

Guaranteed (online)

Booking a ticket guarantees you entry to the online event. You will be given joining instructions in your confirmation email. If you have any access requests or requirements, for example a transcript of the event, email us at or call 020 7611 2222.


This event will have live speech-to-text transcription which may be useful for people who are D/deaf, hard of hearing, deafened or neurodiverse. The text will be embedded in the event video window and ticketholders will also receive a link to open subtitles in a separate window.

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