Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine by Olivia Campbell

Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine by Olivia Campbell

Author:Olivia Campbell [Campbell, Olivia]
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781488073922
Google: CjzeDwAAQBAJ
Publisher: Park Row Books
Published: 2021-03-02T00:00:00+00:00

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In the summer term, five became seven. The women welcomed two more students: Emily Bovell and Mary Anderson (sister of Ford, the resident medical officer at Middlesex Hospital with whom Lizzie worked). Their impending notoriety would see them forever remembered as the Edinburgh Seven.

When Lizzie heard about these industrious lady students, she asked her wealthy patient Lady Amberley to donate some scholarship funds to them. Amberley gave £50 for three years, and Lizzie herself funded one-third of another scholarship. Whatever initial concern Lizzie had about Sophia becoming a doctor was now set aside and her full support given to her friend.

Dean Balfour, a professor of botany, was one of the few professors who offered to teach the women a separate class. But his ill health prevented him from teaching two classes. So Sophia called on Dr. Alleyne Nicholson, who taught natural history at the university’s extramural school, to see if they could join his class.

After asking his students if they were okay with the women joining them, Nicholson welcomed the women to attend his regular class. That was how, Sophia said, “the first ‘mixed class’ was inaugurated, and continued throughout the summer without the slightest inconvenience.” The men didn’t bat an eye at the women’s presence. The ladies particularly enjoyed the class field trip to a dredging site on the sandy gravel banks of the Firth of Forth to study fossils.

The majority of these extramural lecturers were appalled by how the university was treating the seven women. To help their cause, they passed two resolutions in July 1870, allowing the extramural lecturers to “be free to lecture to female as well as to male students” and to ensure that “no restrictions be imposed on the lecturers as to the manner in which instruction is to be imparted to women.”

Unsurprisingly, Turner flatly refused to instruct them in anatomy or even to permit his assistant to do so. It was back to the extramural professors to provide the necessary teachings. Doctors Peter Handyside and Patrick Heron Watson said they saw no problem with teaching men and women together. They told the women they could attend their regular lectures in anatomy and surgery, respectively. Handyside had even taught women before, having trained some midwives.

Anatomy students could begin coming to the dissecting room at the beginning of October, but lectures didn’t start till the following month. The more studious and industrious of the students usually came at the earlier date, while the others didn’t appear until November, Sophia explained. The women arrived at the earliest possible day and were assigned their own cozy corner of the dissecting room.

Human remains for dissection could be hard to come by. People who’d received the death penalty were considered fair game for slicing open in front of wide-eyed students, but there were never enough convicted criminals to meet the growing demands of medical schools and independent anatomy institutions, especially as attendance at these establishments increased. To fill this gap, anatomy professors often offered to pay for cadavers.


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