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Anderson, Elizabeth

women medical london garrett

née Garrett (1836–1917) British physician; pioneered the acceptance of women into British medical schools.

Elizabeth Garrett was born in London, where her father had a pawnbroker’s shop. He later built an expanding business malting grain at Snape in Suffolk. Educated by a governess at home, followed by boarding school in London, she settled to the duties of daughter at home, helping to run the large household. She joined the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, whose aim was to improve the status of women through education and employment. , the first woman to graduate in medicine in America (1849) gave a lecture on ‘Young Women Desirous of Studying Medicine’, which impressed Elizabeth Garrett and her friend Emily Davies (1830–1921) who decided that Elizabeth should work to open the medical profession in England to women and that Emily Davies would pursue higher education for women (she founded Girton College, Cambridge). As she was the youngest, Elizabeth’s sister Millicent (Fawcett) was to work for the vote for women.

After graduation in New York Elizabeth Blackwell was inscribed on the British Medical Register. The Medical Council decided in future to exclude all holders of foreign degrees. To practise medicine in Britain Elizabeth Garrett had to gain admission to a British medical school.

With the financial support of her father she became an unofficial medical student at the Middlesex Hospital in 1860. Although she had the approval of the Dean, students and staff objected and she had to leave. No medical school or university in Great Britain would admit a woman, so she applied to the Society of Apothecaries, which provided a minimum qualification in medicine. After taking counsel’s opinion, the Society was unable to refuse her application because of the wording of its Charter, an opening closed soon after her success. She attended a course by on natural history and physiology and course on physics at the Royal Institution, at their invitation. Only private tuition for the Apothecaries’ medical course was open to her and she found tutors at the medical schools at St Andrews, Edinburgh and London. She passed the Apothecaries’ Hall examination in 1865, becoming the first woman to complete a recognized course of medical training with legal qualifications in Britain.

As a woman Elizabeth Garrett was barred from any hospital appointment and was unacceptable as an assistant in general practice. She was dependent on an allowance from her father for some time. She became a consultant physician to women and children from her home in London. Although willing to attend male patients she feared that to do so might create a scandal. In 1865, just before a cholera epidemic reached London, she opened the St Mary’s Dispensary for Women and Children in a poor area of London and became visiting medical officer to a children’s hospital in East London.

The Sorbonne in Paris admitted women in 1868 and in 1870 Elizabeth Garrett became the first woman MD from that university. In 1871 she married James Skelton Anderson (died 1907) and combined family life with her work. The London School of Medicine for Women, which was initiated by , opened in 1874 and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson served on the Executive Committee, taught in the school and worked for the students to be admitted to the University of London’s examinations. In 1883 she was elected Dean, the same year that Mary Scharlieb and Edith Shove became the first women to gain medical degrees from London University. The School became a college of the University of London. From 1886 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was concerned with the New Hospital for Women which served as the teaching hospital for the London School of Medicine for Women. In 1908 she was elected mayor of Aldeburgh, the first woman mayor in England. It was due to the efforts of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson that medical education and medical science was opened to women in Britain.

Anderson, Eva Greenslit (1889–1972) - Local History [next] [back] Anderson,Ed(ward)(“Andy”)

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