Women in medicine 1

Photo:Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, c.1965

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, c.1965

© Royal Free Hospital

The struggle for equal rights

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was born in 1836 in Whitechapel, East London. Her father was a successful businessman, which enabled him to send his daughter to school. At the age of 24, Anderson met Elizabeth Blackwell – the first American woman to become a physician – in 1859. This meeting apparently inspired her to train as a nurse. In 1865 she was accepted into the British Society of Apothecaries, but unfortunately, this did not set a precedent as the Society then changed its rules – stopping other women becoming members.

However this did not deter Anderson, who after many rejections from British universities, went to France to study medicine. In 1870 she qualified as a doctor. Still unable to register and practice in Britain she then decided to set up a new hospital for women in 1872. This later became the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, which in 2001 was amalgamated into University College Hospital. This hospital was staffed entirely by women. In order for this hospital to be staffed by women a place for them to train would need to be set up. Two years later Anderson, Blackwell Blake and Thomas Huxley founded the London School of Medicine for Women.

In 1873, Anderson – largely by default – gained membership to the British Medical Association. (At the time there was no rule against women joining, but in reaction to Anderson’s bold move the BMA quickly changed its rules. This meant that Anderson was only female member until 1892 – when they finally voted to admit women). In 1876 the Medical Act was passed finally allowing women to train as doctors. The following year an agreement was formed with the Royal Free Hospital allowing students at the London School of Medicine for Women to complete their clinical training there.

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Women in medicine 1
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This page was added by Lisa Rigg on 24/03/2010.

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