Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

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Alejandra Bermudez
British Studies Term Paper
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
October 18, 2012

Alejandra Bermudez
Term Paper
October 18, 2012
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson is often considered to be one of the most significant women in the history of medicine and society, her work is often considered to be a turning point in history. She refused to accept a domestic role and who fought to change the prevalent Victorian attitude that women and men could not be equal. She was the first female doctor in Britain, helped to establish the women's suffrage movement, and provided inspiration to her contemporaries and to those who followed in her footsteps. Over the years she has made a major impact not only in the world of medicine but in the lives of women trying to peruse a career in that field. Elizabeth Garrett was born in 1836 in Whitechapel, London, one of 12 children. When she was five, her father, Newson Garrett, “bought a corn and coal warehouse in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, to where the family moved” (Sharp). By 1850, he was a wealthy man and able to send all his children away to school. Unusually for his time, Garrett considered it important that his daughters were educated, as well as his sons. Elizabeth spent two years at boarding school in Blackheath and by the time she was 16 she was determined that she would work for a living, rather than staying at home and wait to be married. While little is recorded about her life in the 1850s, it is certain that “her views on social equality and what became known as feminism were developing” (Manton). “By 1854, Garrett was part of a circle of female friends in London, who all considered that the prevailing male domination of society was unjust. These friends included Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon, both of whom went on to be influential suffragettes” (Sharp). The turning point in Elizabeth Garrett's life was a meeting with Elizabeth Blackwell in 1859. “Blackwell was the first qualified female doctor in the United States, inspiring Garrett to pursue a medical career for herself” (Thomas). With support from her parents, Garrett applied to study medicine at several medical schools, but was turned down because of her gender. Eventually, she enrolled as a nurse at Middlesex Hospital and attended lectures given to the male student doctors. This lasted only a few months, as the students complained about her attendance when she started to outshine them in lectures. However, they didn’t stop her, she continued to persevere. This is an example of the attitude barriers that Garrett Anderson had to overcome in order to achieve her goal, as women, again as stated before, were often held back due to the arrangement in society. Elizabeth worked extremely hard to work through all the negative aspect that came along with achieving this profession; it was her drive and ambition that sailed her through. “She turned to private study and was taught anatomy at the London Hospital and general medicine under the tuition of professors at St Andrews University and Edinburgh University Extra-Mural School”(Brooks 13-15). None of this would have been possible without the continued financial and moral support of her father. In order to practice medicine, Garrett had to gain a qualifying diploma. London University, the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons and other examining bodies refused to allow her to sit their examinations, but she discovered that the Society of Apothecaries did not specifically ban women from taking their exams. “In 1865 Elizabeth went on to pass the Apothecaries exam, she was granted the certificate which enabled her to become a doctor” (Brooks 22-25). She opened up a small clinic in 1866 located in London, which became the first in England to have women doctors (Brooks 25). Despite her success, she realized that without a medical degree she would never be taken seriously by the male-dominated profession. Unable to obtain an MD in Britain, “she taught...
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