Women at war: Leading the way in medicine

AT the start of the 20th century a woman's place was definitely in the home ..

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'The Scottish Women's Hospital' painting by Norah Neilson Gray (1882-1931). Norah was one of the staff of the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service, 1914-1919 and is also one of the group of artists known as the Glasgow Girls. The picture is now in the Imperial War Museum, London
'The Scottish Women's Hospital' painting by Norah Neilson Gray (1882-1931). Norah was one of the staff of the Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service, 1914-1919 and is also one of the group of artists known as the Glasgow Girls. The picture is now in the Imperial War Museum, London

but as women fought for suffrage some did manage to make their mark in the field of medicine.

VIVIENNE NICOLL tells the story of the Scots women who trained in Glasgow and then patched up the troops.

IN 1894, Marion Gilchrist became the first women to graduate from Glasgow University and the first woman to qualify in medicine at a Scottish University.

The Hamilton Academy pupil was to lead the way for generations of ambitious women, many were to play a vital role during the First World War.

By 1907, there were 60 women studying medicine at Queen Margaret College, which housed a separate medical school for women.

But it was not a course for the faint hearted and the women had to fight for an equal education.

They also had to fight to play their part in the Great War.

Anne McIlroy was one of the first women medical graduates and in 1906 was appointed gynaecological surgeon at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow.

At the outbreak of war, she and other female medical graduates offered their services to the government.

They were declined on the grounds the battlefield was no place for women.

Undeterred and determined to help with the war effort, the brave group of women applied to the French government and were accepted.

They worked in the Scottish Women's Hospitals which were set up thanks to the campaigning and fundraising efforts of Elsie Inglis and the Federation of Women's Suffrage.

Elsie Inglis had started training as a doctor in Edinburgh but completed her training at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Anne McIlroy commanded a unit at the Scottish Women's Hospital at Troyes in France before being posted to Serbia and then to Salonika in Greece for three years.

During her time in Salonika, she established a nurses training school for Serbian girls and oversaw the establishment of the only orthopaedic centre in the Eastern Army.

She finished her war service as a surgeon at a Royal Army Medical Corps hospital in Constantinople.

After the war she returned to Glasgow for a short time but left in 1921 when she was appointed Professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the London School of Medicine for Women - the first woman to be appointed a medical professor in the UK.

Katherine MacPhail, from Coatbridge, also graduated from Queen Margaret College and when war broke out she and her sister Isabel offered their services to the Scottish Women's Hospitals.

Isabel and Katherine set off for Serbia, Isabel as an orderly and Katherine as a surgeon, and eventually went on to the Military Hospital at Belgrade.

After the war, Katherine remained in Serbia, was honoured by the Serbian government and was awarded the OBE.

Isabel, who returned to Coatbridge after the war, was also honoured for her work during the conflict.

Surgeon Agnes Blackadder was one of the most distinguished of the early medical graduates from Queen Margaret College.

During the war, she went out to France on several occasions returning to her post as a consultant in London when she could, usually during the winter when there was a lull in the fighting.

Agnes had an acute appreciation of the dangers of gas gangrene and worked to mitigate its effects. Her studies of the x-ray appearances of gangrene were pioneering.

After the war she returned to London and was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland - only the sixth woman to receive the honour.

Mary Alexander graduated in medicine from Queen Margaret College in 1907 and during the war, worked in Salonika as an assistant surgeon.

Daisy Bennett was the daughter of a Glasgow merchant who lived in Langside.

She graduated from the college in 1898, a pioneer in a field where women had to contend with prejudice and difficulty in gaining first a degree and then a job.

Daisy graduated Doctor of Medicine in 1904, one of the first women to obtain a postgraduate qualification.

By the time war broke out she was 35, was a distinguished female doctor and became a surgeon at the 4th Scottish General Hospital, Stobhill treating casualties sent home from the Front.

Stobhill, which was requisitioned by the military authorities just after the outbreak of war, treated hundreds of servicemen and Daisy and her colleagues worked tirelessly round the clock to tend to them.

vivienne.nicoll@eveningtimes.co.uk

Unlocking secrets from the past

A PROJECT was launched which aims to unlock secrets of the First World War and ensure their place in history is recorded for future generations.

Home Front Legacy 1914-18 is calling on volunteers from across Scotland to help survey, research and record buildings and sites which played a key role, before, during and after the conflict.

It will allow communities to build on an audit of all existing First World War records undertaken by Dr Gordon Barclay for Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

That was more than three times the number expected at the outset with previously unknown information around strategic defences, buildings and structures coming to light.

The audit provides great detail about the part played by communities across Scotland a century ago.

It is hoped the Home Front Legacy project will encourage volunteers to build on the audit by visiting, surveying, recording and researching these sites more fully, as well as discovering other buildings and sites associated with the First World War.

Dan Snow, President of the Council for British Archaeology, said: "Our aim is to record and preserve vulnerable sites, buildings and structures - camps, drill halls, factories and observation posts before they and the stories they bear witness to are lost forever."

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for culture and external affairs said: "The Home Front Legacy campaign will increase our understanding of the vital role Scotland's communities played in the conflict.

"Even though much of the First World War is well documented, we know there is still a lot to learn from the conflict and the role our communities played in it and I believe this campaign will go some way to completing our picture."

Eila Macqueen, director of Archaeology Scotland which is also participating in the project, added: "This is such a valuable and exciting project which will increase our existing understanding of the sites and buildings connected to the First World War.

"As we prepare to remember the events of 100 years ago there has never been a more appropriate time for communities across the country to get involved in this part of our history."

The audit of buildings and sites is available at www.rcahms.gov.uk/firstworldwar

Education

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