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Victorian Women and the Professions. The Female Doctor

C19th Female Doctors

Female Doctor Practising 1865

The effort to improve women’s education in the C19th, was accompanied by a demand that women should be allowed into the professions.

The census report of 1871 had this to say on the matter;

“They are…… excluded wholly or in great part, from the church, the law and medicine. Whether they should be rigidly excluded from these professions, or be allowed, on the principle of freedom of trade, to compete with men, is one of the questions of the day”

    • The outcry from women was mainly that they were excluded from studying medicine, although there had been breakthroughs.
    • Elizabeth Blackwell, who had an American medical degree was placed on the medical register in 1858
    • Elizabeth Garrett was allowed to practise in 1865 with a Licence of the Society of Apothecaries.
    • Everything then ground to a halt as the profession blocked the entrance of women.

Things started to change after Russell Gurney’s Act was passed in 1876, ‘To Remove the Restrictions on The Granting of Qualifications on the Ground of Sex’

    • Eventually the London School of Medicine for Women was opened and then two years later after vociferous opposition an act of Parliament allowed women to become registered as doctors, only, if they had qualified in all areas.

By the census of 1901 there were 335 female doctors

At least the right of women to enter a profession had been established but it had taken thirty years of determined effort and was still only grudgingly given.

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