Admission of Women to Faculty of Medicine, 1916

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Women were finally permitted to become full members of Edinburgh University's Faculty of Medicine in 1916.

Female students of Medicine had nominally been admitted to Edinburgh since 1869, when Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912) won the right to attend medical classes in the separate Extra-Mural School. She was unsuccessful, however, in challenging the University's refusal to permit female students to graduate.

In 1886, the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh admitted women to the examination for their Joint Qualification, and the School of Medicine for Women was founded. Women were still however forbidden to attend clinical teaching in the Royal Infirmary (though separate clinical teaching was provided for them in Leith Hospital from 1887).

In 1892, women were formally admitted to Edinburgh University for the first time as a consequence of the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889. In 1894, the University announced that it would admit women for graduation in the Faculty of Medicine, but for many years they continued to be taught separately.

It was only in 1916, with the First World War bringing a much higher percentage of female students and a growing demand for their medical skills, that the Faculty of Medicine admitted women on an entirely equal footing to men.

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Sources

  • Robert D. Anderson, 'The Construction of a Modern University', in Robert D. Anderson, Michael Lynch, and Nicholas Phillipson, The University of Edinburgh: An Illustrated History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), pp. 103-207.
  • John Dixon Comrie, 'The Faculty of Medicine', in A. Logan Turner (ed.), History of the University of Edinburgh 1883-1933 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1933), pp. 100-63.