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Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, LSA, MD (9 June 1836 – 17 December 1917), was an Englishmarker physician and feminist, the first woman to gain a medical qualification in Britain and the first female mayor in England.


Garrett was born in 1836 at 1 Commercial Road, Whitechapelmarker, Londonmarker, the second of the nine children of Newson Garrett (1812–1893), a grain merchant and maltster of Aldeburghmarker, Suffolk, and his wife, Louisa née Dunnell (1813–1903). Her younger sister, Millicent Fawcett, became a leader of the constitutional campaign for women's suffrage. She was also the cousin of Elizabeth Dunnell who married Richard Garrett III the famous owner of Richard Garrett & Sons. Elizabeth was educated at home and at a private school. In 1860 she resolved to study medicine, an almost unheard-of thing for a woman at that time, and regarded by some as almost indecent. Having obtained some more or less irregular instruction at the Middlesex Hospitalmarker, Londonmarker, she was refused admission as a full student both there and at many other medical schools to which she applied. Finally she studied anatomy privately at the London Hospitalmarker, and with some of the professors at the University of St Andrewsmarker, and at the Edinburghmarker Extra-Mural school. She had no less difficulty in gaining a qualifying diploma to practice medicine. London University, the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons, and many other examining bodies refused to admit her to their examinations; but in the end the Society of Apothecaries allowed her to enter for the Licence of Apothecaries' Hall, which she obtained in 1865. This entitled her to have her name entered on the medical register, the second woman after Elizabeth Blackwell, and the first woman qualified in Britain to do so.

In 1866 she was appointed general medical attendant to St Mary's Dispensary, a London institution started to enable poor women to obtain medical help from qualified practitioners of their own sex. The dispensary soon developed into the New Hospital for Women, and there Dr Garrett worked for over twenty years. In 1870 she obtained the University of Paris degree of MD, three months after Frances Hoggan obtained that qualification. The same year she was elected to the first London School Board, at the head of the poll for Marylebonemarker, and was also made one of the visiting physicians of the East London Hospital for Children; but the duties of these two positions she found to be incompatible with her principal work, and she soon resigned them. She also built a medical school for women.

In 1871 she married James George Skelton Anderson (d. 1907) of the Orient Steamship Company co-owned by his uncle Arthur Anderson, but she did not give up her practice. She had three children, Louisa, Margaret, who died of meningitis, and Alan. Louisa also became a pioneering doctor of medicine and social campaigner.

In 1873 she gained membership of the British Medical Association and remained the only woman member for 19 years, due to the Association's vote against the admission of further women — "one of several instances where Garrett, uniquely, was able to enter a hitherto all male medical institution which subsequently moved formally to exclude any women who might seek to follow her."

Elizabeth worked steadily at the development of the New Hospital for Women, and (from 1874) at the creation of the London School of Medicine for Womenmarker. Both institutions have since been handsomely and suitably housed and equipped, the New hospital for Women (in the Euston Roadmarker) for many years being worked entirely by medical women, and the schools (in Hunter Street, WC1) having over 200 students, most of them preparing for the medical degree of London University (the present-day University College Londonmarker), which was opened to women in 1877. In 1897 Dr Garrett Anderson was elected president of the East Anglianmarker branch of the British Medical Association.

On 9 November 1908 she was elected mayor of Aldeburghmarker, the first female mayor in England.

The movement for the admission of women to the medical profession, of which Dr Anderson was the indefatigable pioneer in Englandmarker, extended in her lifetime to all of North America and Europe, except for Spain and Turkey. She died in 1917 and is buried in Aldeburghmarker.


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