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Women and Medicine
Transcript of Women and Medicine
Women and Medicine
The First Women of St George's
Dr James Barry
Barry was a successful British Army surgeon who served in India and Cape Town, South Africa, and eventually rose to the rank of Inspector General in charge of military hospitals.
He is credited as the first British Surgeon to perform a successful Caesarean section saving the lives of mother and baby.
An excerpt from St George's Committee Meeting Minutes April 1915 showing the motion to admit women was carried
St George's Gazette
Rescinding the admittance of women at St George's Committee Meeting June 1915
Letter from the female students asking to continue to study
As promised Dr Jex Blake raises the motion.
Dr Collier adds an amendment and it is carried.
St George's may now admit up to 10 female students during the war.
On 25 July 1865 Sophia Bishop was asked to lay out the body of James Barry. Dr Barry, Bishop pronounced, was " a perfect female".
Since his death there has been much dispute over Barry's gender but evidence suggests that James Barry was actually born Margaret Bulkley from Co. Cork, Ireland, which if true, makes her the first medically qualified woman in the UK.
or Margaret Bulkley???
Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, England in 1821. She wished to become a physician but was told it was impossible, too expensive, and such education was not available to women. She convinced two physician friends to let her read medicine with them for a year, and applied to all the medical schools in New York and Philadelphia and to twelve more schools in the northeast states.
She was accepted by Geneva Medical College in western New York state in 1847. the administration asked the students to decide whether to admit her or not. The students, reportedly believing it to be only a practical joke, endorsed her admission. When they discovered that she was serious, both students and townspeople were horrified. She had few allies and was an outcast in Geneva.
Nevertheless, two years later, in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive an M.D. degree from an American medical school
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first female doctor to qualify in England (with the exception of Margaret Bulkley mentioned earlier).
Anderson failed to get into any medical school and enrolled as a nursing student at the Middlesex Hospital. She attended classes with male colleagues, but was barred after complaints. She took the Society of Apothecaries examination and qualified in 1865. The society subsequently changed its rules in order to ban women entrants.
Determined to become qualified as a doctor, she taught herself French and got a medical degree in Paris, but was still refused entry into the British Medical Register.
Thanks to Anderson's determination in 1876 an act was passed permitting women to enter the medical professions.
Sophia was one of the "Edinburgh Seven" i.e. the first group of female medical students to be attend a University in the UK. There was a lot of resistance to female medical students and it led to an incident known as the "Surgeons' Hall Riots. On the afternoon of 18 November 1870 the seven were walking to Surgeons' Hall, Nicholson Street, to take an examination when they encountered a mob of hostile students who shouted abuse and blocked their entry to the hall. They pelted the women with mud and refuse. Some of the women reflected " As soon as we reached the Surgeon's Hall we saw a dense mob filling up the road… The crowd was sufficient to stop all the traffic for an hour. We walked up to the gates, which remained open until we came within a yard of them, when they were slammed in our faces by a number of young men. Then a sympathetic student emerged from the hall; he opened the gate and ushered the women inside."
All of the women still passed the exam.
Due to the strong opposition it took Sophia 8 years to qualify as a doctor.
Strong opposition in the UK meant that the court were able to overrule the decision to grant medical degrees to women and so the BMA refused to register the Edinburgh Seven, despite the fact that they had passed their exams.
After the law changed again in 1876 she managed to qualify as a doctor in Ireland in 1877. She would also go on to help found The London School of Medicine for Women
Stereotypes about woman doctors
"And when they are pregnant, how will they get close to their patients with their swollen bellies?"
"Women cannot seriously pursue medical career...unless they stop being women: due to physiological laws, women doctors are ambiguous, hermaphrodite or sexless creatures, monsters at any rate."
Because of the nature of women they lack the physical strength to lift patients. Their physical nature makes them particularly weak for one week a month during menstruation.
The natural sensitivity of women is a third obstacle. Seeing blood, dissected bodies or filth profoundly repels them.
Nature prevents women from having "the roles they want to play" because of a fourth, psychological obstacle: their extremely proud, ambitious disposition. Never do they want to play a mere second role" when they want to take man's places. Otherwise wouldn't they be satisfied with being nurses or midwives?
"Tis a beautiful thing, a woman's sphere!
She may nurse a sick bed through the small hours drear,
Brave ghastly infection untouched by fear,
But she mustn't receive a doctor's fee,
And she mustn't (oh shocking!) be called an MD,
For if a woman were suffer to take a degree,
She'd be lifted quite out of her sphere.
St George's becomes the first Medical School in London to admit female students.
As a result of The Great War women are given the opportunity to train as doctors in London Medical Schools.
In May 1915 the first four female students begin their studies. They are; Helen Ingleby, Ethelberta Claremont, Marian M. Bostock and Elizabeth O'Flynn.
The gazette announcement shows a positive feeling to the admission of ladies
However not everyone is happy with the decision...
Not to be dissuaded the four women write to the committee and plead to continue with their studies until the end resulting in a unanimous vote by the Committee to allow them to continue their study "during the period of the war".
It has not always been a straightforward road for women who wished to become doctors.
In the beginning both men and women had mixed feelings about "lady doctors".
Nevertheless, some women were determined to achieve their goals one way or another...
The Great War rages on and the University questions whether or not to admit more female students to train as doctors. Dr Ogle causes the decision to be pushed back as the motion was not raised with formal notice in the meeting.
After the War
Committee Meeting Minutes June 5 1916
Reginald has pretended to catch a cold so he can call for a "lady" doctor
As the war continues the Committee is aware that there may be a possibility of a shortage of qualified male physicians and that it may be time to allow women to fill these posts.
The Special Meeting is held on the 23 October 1916
A letter from the Resident Medical Superintendent is read. He states that they currently have "three unqualified students acting as House Officers, and we are already dependent on women for the work."
As two or three of the House Officers may be called upon for the war at any moment there is a danger that there will be no one to fill the positions.
He suggests that they should be given permission to employ one or more women as House Surgeons or House Physicians should the occassion arise
Dr Latham, Dr Turner and Dr Ogle offer letters to express their opinions on the matter.
Latham and Turner are willing to allow the employment of women for the duration of the war.
I shan’t be up in town next Monday I am sorry to say.
Under all the circumstances war & necessity-
my peace time objection to women House Officers have to go and I am in favour of their employment.
Dr Ogle, however, proposes an alternative rather than admit women...
He proposes that they pay one man "to do the surgery and other work, a qualified man who would be a permanency during the war and who could solve many of the present difficulties. It seems to me however that we could get along with the present number of men we possess"
In spite of Ogle's objections the motion is carried and St George's agrees to employ women as House Officers for the period of the war.
Tuesday, 30 Jan 1917
The Dean attends a Conference on the Medical Education of Women in London convened by the University of London.
The conference is a "preliminary one to ascertain the views as far as possible of the Schools of the University".
Several schools are completely against the admittance of women.
Others will admit women but the dean is unsure whether or not it is just a war time measure.
In the end... nothing is decided as, " It was practically generally agreed that the present time, when so many of the Staff of the different hospitals are away on active service , was not suitable or opportune for the official discussion of this important question".
Unfortunately it seems that the majority of University of London Medical Schools stuck to their decision that the admittance of women was a "war time measure" and gradually, less and less women were admitted to train as doctors.
Women who received House positions also suffered strong opposition. In one particular case in the London Hospital Medical College, "the male residents protested bitterly that women were not suited to such appointments, and that they would damage the welfare of the college and its athletics. They went so far as to threaten resignation over the issue."
The life, work and gender of Dr james Barry MD (1795-1865). Kubba, A.K and Young, M
Proc R Coll Physicians Edinb
The Unmasking of Dr Barry. Pain, S. New Scientist. 8 March 2008, 46-47
Her Sphere. (originally printed in
The Englishwomans' Review
Before the Vote was Won
Jane Lewis Routledge, 4 Jul 2013
A History of Women’s Entrance Into Medicine. http://www.bium.univ-paris5.fr/histmed/medica/femmesmed_va.htm
Elizabeth Blackwell: the first woman to qualify as a doctor in America. http://blog.wellcome.ac.uk/2013/07/22/elizabeth-blackwell/
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/elizabethgarrettanderson.aspx
Blake, Sophia Louisa Jex- (1840–1912), physician and campaigner for women's rightsby Shirley Roberts Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/printable/34189
Sophia Jex-Blake http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Wjex.htm
Sophia Jex-Blake by Alexandra Webb. http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/imow-Blake.pdf
Students: A Gendered History.
Dyhouse, C, Routledge; New Ed edition, 2005