The Edinburgh Seven: The Story of the First Women to Study Medicine

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Women have healed since the beginning of time, but accessing a formal degree in medicine was impossible for them in Britain until the late 19th century. In 1869, a group of women began arriving in Edinburgh to study at the medical faculty, led by the indomitable Sophia Jex Blake. They would eventually be known around the world as The Edinburgh Seven. They were delighted to become students of medicine and as Sophia said, they simply wanted 'a fair field and no favour'.

But some of the traditional professors at the university did not approve of women becoming practising doctors. The medical women would soon discover that they were welcome as hobbyists but not as competitors with male students. There were legal wrangles, court cases, personal attacks and even a full blown riot - all because some male medics wanted rid of the women. And the women did leave Edinburgh - without degrees. But they finished their studies in mainland Europe and came back as fully fledged doctors.

In 2019, the University of Edinburgh awarded the Seven their degrees posthumously via current day medical students. At last, the right thing was done, but the struggles of the original Seven should never be forgotten. This is their story.

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Pen & Sword Books Ltd
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