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Definition: Anderson, Elizabeth Garrett from Philip's Encyclopedia

English physician and pioneer of women's rights. She had to overcome intense prejudice against women doctors to become one of the first women to practise medicine. Later she became England's first woman mayor.


Summary Article: Anderson, Elizabeth Garrett
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English physician, the first English woman to qualify in medicine. In 1859 Anderson met the US doctor Elizabeth Blackwell, who inspired her to become a doctor. Unable to attend medical school because of the legal bar on women entering university, Anderson studied privately and was licensed by the Society of Apothecaries in London in 1865. She set up St Mary's Dispensary in 1866 to treat women and children; this later became the Marylebone Dispensary for Women and Children, and was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in 1918.

Anderson received a medical degree from the University of Paris in 1870, and became the first woman member of the British Medical Association in 1873; in 1876 she was instrumental in getting the British government to change the law to allow women to become doctors through the normal channels. In 1908 she was elected mayor of Aldeburgh, becoming the first woman mayor in Britain. She lectured at the London School of Medicine for Women 1875–97, and was its dean 1883–1903.

Anderson had tried to gain entry to the Scottish universities of St Andrew's and Edinburgh, but was rejected by both. However, she managed to persuade two doctors to teach her privately in general medicine, gynaecology, and midwifery.

At the end of her studies, Anderson tried to get official recognition as a suitably qualified doctor with one of the three British organizations that could confer this status in the 19th century. Both the College of Physicians and the College of Surgeons rejected her application on the grounds that they did not admit women, and that she was not properly qualified because she had not been to a recognized university. However, the rules of the Society of Apothecaries did not bar women. Anderson successfully completed its examinations and, despite spirited opposition from the society's board, she obtained her licence to practise medicine in 1865.

Anderson's success in challenging old prejudices against women in the medical profession acted as an inspiration to other women who wished to become doctors.

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