Dr Catherine Hamlin
January 24th 1924 – March 18th 2020
It is with deep sadness we share the news of the passing of Dr Catherine Hamlin, co-founder of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia.
On Wednesday March 18th, 2020 Catherine passed away peacefully at her home on the grounds of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia where she has lived for 61 years. She was 96 years old.
It is a very sad time for those who knew Catherine – her family, her patients, her colleagues and her thousands of supporters around the world.
In this time of sorrow, we reflect upon her life and celebrate it for what it was: a gift to some of the world’s most vulnerable women.
Dr Catherine Hamlin and her late husband Dr Reg Hamlin travelled to Ethiopia 61 years ago and went on to found Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, a health network treating women who suffer the debilitating effects of an obstetric fistula – a horrific childbirth injury.
When Catherine saw and treated her first obstetric fistula survivor, her life’s path was cemented.
“We were touched and appalled by the sadness of our first fistula patient: a beautiful young woman in urine-soaked ragged clothes, sitting alone in our outpatients department away from the other waiting patients. We knew she was more in need than any of the others.”
We invite you to read a full obituary of Catherine’s remarkable life available here and to leave your tribute to Catherine on this page below.
19th March 2020 at 2:52 pm
My wife and I met Catherine several times while visiting the Black Lion Hospital in Addis as an Retired English Orthopaedic surgeon. Catherine always welcomed us with open arms and invited us to the Fistula hospital where my efforts to help her patients were massively overshadowed by the work she and her co workers were doing. Although it is several years since we visited Addis her example remains a shining memory. A light has gone out in Ethiopia but it is so encouraging that her example has stimulated so many to follow in her footsteps to help the women of Ethiopia and to try and eradicate the scourge of Obstetric fistula. Stephen Wood 19.3.20
19th March 2020 at 3:12 pm
Everyone who ever knew Catherine in any way will mourn her death. She was a wonderful woman whose life was truly wonderful with her utter dedication to the women of Ethiopia. She worked tirelessly throughout her long life. May she now rest in peace.
19th March 2020 at 3:33 pm
I have supported the hospital for half my life, so Dr Hamlin’s death is a significant moment. She was an exceptional human being. I have already phoned Last Word (radio 4) to insist they include her in the next programme!
The unique feature from the beginning is that the hospital not only repaired the body, it gave back to the patients their womanhood and their place in the community. An astonishing thing to do.
19th March 2020 at 4:53 pm
What a wonderful woman and how sad that she has passed. I have supported the Hamlin Trust for many years in my small way and am happy to continue because I know that there are capable dedicated people ready to carry on her work. That is what was so amazing about Dr Hamlin. She wasn’t just passionate about helping people, she put so much into helping people to help themselves. Everything she did was aimed at becoming self supporting, whether an individual woman recovering from surgery or a new midwifery school. She leaves big boots to fill but she made sure her colleagues are well prepared.
I know we will all mourn her loss and also celebrate her achievements.
Perry & Gillian Clark
19th March 2020 at 5:55 pm
Many years ago we were passing through Ethiopia and rang Dr Hamlin to see if we could visit her hospital. She spent over an hour with us in the hospital (this was the only building in existence, even Desta Mender had not been thought of) and she then took us to her home where she talked further about her work and gave us tea and lemon sponge which she had made for our visit. The whole experience was humbling and inspirational and we knew we were lucky to have been in the presence of such an exceptional person. No wonder Ethiopians have loved her and taken her to their hearts.
19th March 2020 at 8:44 pm
I was indeed saddened to learn of the death of Dr.Catherine Hamlin and extend my sympathy,thoughts and prayers to all the many in Ethiopia and the team in Birmingham .She was a truly outstanding and remarkable lady who dedicated all of her working life tirelessly to the poor dear women of Ethiopia truly completely transforming them. Although I never met her in person we did correspond over several years and became friends. I still have all her letters. She will never be forgotten but will be remembered with much love and deep affection by many many people whos lives she touch in a special way. A fine christian lady and yes a true saint. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.
20th March 2020 at 1:46 pm
I never met Dr Catherine Hamlin in life but my boss/trainer did and gave an unbelievable report, so I feel like I did, vicariously. An extraordinary individual, she was a gift to mankind, and particularly the women of Ethiopia. We deeply mourn her loss. May she Rest In Peace and may God comfort her loved ones and her numerous patients, amen.
20th March 2020 at 8:23 pm
I became aware of the work of the Drs Hamlin’s work 15 or so years ago, when I happened to see a documentary on television about it. I was moved to tears – of sadness and joy – and have since been a constant, if modest, financial contributor to the work of their hospitals. May they both be held in the light.
24th March 2020 at 11:36 pm
I met Catherine in 2004 shortly after I started working in Ethiopia as a medical researcher and surgeon . Of course, like everyone else I wanted to see the world famous fistula hospital and observe the surgical technique, in case I needed to use it myself, I wanted to meet this iconic woman whom I had heard so much about.
She was a small, slight woman who immediately put me in mind of Mother Teresa of India, she had that absolute clarity of focus in every word she spoke and conviction in every movement she made. She was also very approachable and friendly and always welcoming of visitors, of whom there were very many over the years, she made me feel completely at home. I remember her showing me the beautiful hospital garden, a passion we shared, and I must have asked her when she was thinking of retiring, she fixed me with those brilliant blue eyes and told me’ this is my home, I will never leave’.
I made several further visits over the following years and was privileged to be part of the group to accompany her to Edinburgh in 2011 to receive an international award acknowledging her achievements. It must have been one of her last trips overseas and was the last time I saw her. I don’t know how many honours she received in her life, there must have been very many for she was highly respected for her work all over the world. Although twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, this was never awarded, a pity, even an injustice? it was richly deserved, her contribution to women’s health has been unique and far-reaching.
Catherine Hamlin’s name will always be synonymous with obstetric fistula.
7th April 2020 at 10:44 am
Bear all, believe all, hope all, endure all – Love never fails. Catherine knew that to love is to give and she gave as much as anyone can – she gave her life for others. What a shining example of how to live a life.
20th April 2020 at 7:41 am
I have never met Dr. Catherine Hamlin but Women’s Hope International has been supporting the Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa and the midwifery college for more than 15 years. We were very sad to hear about Dr. Hamlin’s passing. She has been an extraordinary individual and an inspiration for us all. We share her deep passion and love for the most vulnerable women in Ethiopia and feel proud and blessed to continue supporting her live’s work.