Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: 4 facts you should know about one of Britain's most important feminists

The surgeon and physician would have been 180 today

Luke Howard
Thursday 09 June 2016 00:19
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4 facts you (probably) didn't know about Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was a pioneering feminist born in Whitechapel, London, in 1836. Today would have been her 180th birthday, and Google has marked the occasion with a Doodle on its homepage.

Here are four facts about her that you (probably) didn't know:

She was the first Englishwoman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain

Garrett began her medical training by becoming a surgery nurse at Middlesex Hospital in 1860. Her success in this role led to her attending an outpatients clinic and then her first operation. After being denied the chance to enroll in the hospital's medical school she hired a private tutor to learn anatomy and physiology.

Garrett was able to gain her qualifications as a surgeon via a loophole in admissions for the Society of Apothecaries. Its charter forbade excluding her on account of her sex, and Garrett eventually qualified to practice medicine in 1865. The society immediately amended its regulations to prevent other women from obtaining a medical licence.

She was the first dean of a British medical school

In 1874, Garrett co-founded the London School of Medicine - the only teaching hospital in Britain to offer places to women. She worked there for the rest of career, and was dean from 1883-1902. The school later became part of what is now the medical school at University College London.

She was first female doctor of medicine in France

On hearing that the dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Sorbonne, Paris was in favour of admitting women as medical students, Garrett studied French so that she could apply for a medical degree, which she obtained in 1870 after some difficulty.

As Mayor of Aldeburgh, she was the first female magistrate in Britain

In 1871 Garrett married James George Skelton, and in 1907 they retired to Aldeburgh in Suffolk. She was was elected mayor of the coastal town in November 1908, a position previously held by her father. She died there in December 1917.

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