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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

In 1860 Elizabeth Garrett was inspired to study medicine after attending lectures given by the US doctor Elizabeth Blackwell. At the time it was an almost unheard of thing for a woman, and regarded by some as almost indecent. 

Despite failing to gain admission to any London medical school she obtained her degree from the Society of Apothecaries in 1865. In doing so she became the first female to complete a recognized course of medical training with legal qualifications in Britain. As a woman Elizabeth Garrett was barred from any hospital appointment or any position as an assistant in general practice.

A portrait of Garrett in the 1860s

After receiving her degree in Britain Garrett 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.

Just before a cholera epidemic reached London, Garrett opened the St Mary's Dispensary, a London clinic that enabled poor women and their children to get medical help from qualified female professionals.

In 1870 Garrett became the first woman to be awarded a medical degree from the Sorbonne University in Paris, two years after France decided to allow women to become doctors.

In 1871 Garrett married James George Skelton Anderson of the Orient Steamship Company, but she did not give up her practice.

Garrett Anderson became the first woman member of the British Medical Association in 1873.

In 1876 she was instrumental in getting the British government to change the law to allow women to become doctors through the normal channels.

Garrett Anderson circa 1889

On November 9, 1908, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became Britain's first female mayor, at Aldeburgh in Suffolk, where she’d retired to.

Sources Wikipedia, Hutchinson Encyclopedia © RM 2011. Helicon Publishing is division of RM.

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