Maldon U3A - 2009 July Meeting

Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson by Louise Reed

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917), first British woman physician and first female member of the British Medical Association.   She was also the first woman in England to have a hospital named after her (after her death in 1917).   Anderson's achievements made it possible for other British women to become doctors.

Louise Reed as Dr Anderson
    Louise Reed as Dr Anderson.

Born in London, Anderson was educated in nearby Blackheath at a ladies finishing school.   She first resolved to study medicine after attending lectures given in 1859 by the first American woman doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell.   With the help of a tutor, Anderson studied math and science, two subjects not taught at Blackheath Boarding School.   She then became a surgical Nurse in 1860 at Middlesex Hospital in London, where she trained informally by following doctors on their hospital rounds.   She said she was banned after answering a question no one else could answer - it made the formal trainees look silly!   After a year, she applied for admission at several London medical schools but was turned down because of her sex.   She continued her education privately, studying with sympathetic faculty from recognized medical schools.   She obtained an L.S.A. (Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries) degree in 1865 from the Society of Apothecaries (now called Chemists), which could not refuse her, according to its charter which said that "all persons" could attend.   This degree allowed Anderson to dispense medicine.   In 1866 she established St. Mary's Dispensary, a clinic for women and children in London initially in a room with 6 beds, followed by another 6 beds.   The clinic flourished and became a hospital in 1872, the New Hospital for Women and Children.   In 1918 (after her death) it was renamed as the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.   In answering a question Louise said that it was now unoccupied as it had been swallowed up by the Royal Free which has a wing for ladies, administered by lady Doctors.

In 1870, two years after France decided to allow women to become doctors, the University of Paris awarded Anderson a medical degree.   That same year, she took a job as a visiting medical officer at a hospital for children and was elected the first woman member of the London School Board.   She met her husband, James George Skelton Anderson, through both of these endeavors he was Vice President and financial adviser of the hospital and was involved with the school board elections.   They were married in 1871, and during their life together, had three children, one of whom died of meningitis while still very young.   The elder daughter, Elizebeth was also a Doctor and a follower of Mrs Pankhurst.

The British Medical Association made Elizabeth Garrett Anderson its first female member in 1873.   She held this distinction until 1892.   During that period she lectured at the new London School of Medicine for Women, which had been founded in 1874 by British physician Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake.   Anderson became Dean of the school in 1883 and retained this position for 20 years.   One of her projects was establishing the New Hospital for Women, a teaching hospital affiliated with the London School of Medicine for Women.   The school later became part of the University of London.

A very interesting story (which was true), well presented.

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Last revised 21st December 2009 to create this page.