Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Women in STEM
Women in STEM
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

Birth: June 9, 1836

Death:  December 17, 1917

Specialty: Medicine

Major Contributions:

First Englishwoman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain

Co-founder of first hospital staffed by women

First female dean of a British medical school

Image: Wikimedia

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was born in 1876. When she was eighteen, she met Emily Davies, a suffragist who would become a lifelong friend, and Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the U.S. It was with their support that Garrett decided to pave the way for women in medicine. Initially, Garrett’s father was opposed to the radical idea of his daughter becoming a physician, but he later provided both financial and moral support.

While spending three months as a surgical nurse at London’s Middlesex Hospital she proved her skill and was allowed more responsibility. She unsuccessfully attempted to enroll in the hospital’s medical school but she was allowed to study apothecary sciences.

In 1861, the male students petitioned the school to remove her, and she was forced to leave. Garrett applied to several medical schools and was rejected by each.

In 1862 she used a loophole in admissions at the Society of Apothecaries, which could not legally exclude her because she was female. In 1865, she became the first woman in Britain to obtain a license to practice medicine. The Society immediately changed its regulations to prevent this happening again.

Hospitals did not allow female doctors, so she opened her own practice in London. At first, people distrusted her, but there was an outbreak of cholera and in the panic, people forgot their mistrust. The practice grew and after six months she opened St. Mary’s Dispensary for Women and Children.

In 1870 she finally obtained her medical degree from the University of Sorbonne and was made a visiting physician of the East London Hospital for Children, becoming the first woman in Britain to be appointed to a medical post. In 1871, she married James Anderson, but did not give up her practice.

The following year, her dispensary became the New Hospital for Women and Children and in 1874, she co-founded the London School of Medicine for Women and became a lecturer. She was made Dean of the school in 1883.

Retiring in 1902 she and her family returned to her childhood home were a few years later she was elected mayor – making her the first female mayor in England.

She died in 1917 and her hospital was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital the next year.

Written by Nicole Hutchison


Wikipedia: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

BBC: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

History Today: Britain’s First Female Doctor

See Also:

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School

Encyclopedia of World Biography: Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

The Famous People: Elizabeth Garret Anderson