Mary Esslemont graduated in medicine from Aberdeen University in 1923. As a student she had been the first female President of the Students' Representative Council.
She became Assistant Medical Officer of Health in Yorkshire, but in 1929 returned to Aberdeen where she was a general practitioner until her retirement in 1963. She served on Aberdeen University Council for over 40 years and was its first female Assessor.
Mary was a lifelong member of the BMA and was the only Scot, and only woman, to represent the Association in negotiations with government prior to the establishment of the NHS.
She was the BMA representative on the World Medical Association for 23 years and travelled the world in that capacity. In recognition of her unique contribution to the BMA she was made vice-president in 1970.
She was active in many other local, national and international organisations. A member of the Royal College of General Practitioners for many years, she was made a fellow in 1969. Her contribution to medicine in general and general practice in particular was immense, helping to develop health services for poorer deprived communities in the city, particularly women and children.
During that time she supported a number of local organisations and charities for which she was awarded the freedom of the city in 1981, an honorary LLD from Aberdeen University in 1954 and CBE in 1955. She is commemorated by a plaque at 30 Beechgrove Terrace.
She was a suffragist and an activist for women’s rights.
Some 80 boxes of her papers are held in the university’s Special Collections and there are also oral history interviews.