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Today’s Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Life of the Day is the pioneering woman doctor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. She was admitted to the Medical Register in 1865, having received the Licentiate in Medicine of the Society of Apothecaries as the result of a loophole which was promptly closed.

Archives and Manuscripts recently acquired a Garrett Anderson letter, 26 April 1891: to Mrs Fitch, extending a lunch invitation and asking whether Mr Fitch might let her have a look at the Report of the Commission on London University, for a paper she was writing on the Medical Women’s Association. This has been added to the file of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson autograph letters – MS.7776.

The Medical Women’s Association mentioned in the letter was the Association of Registered Medical Women of London, founded in 1879, when, following various legal and educational changes, several other women besides Garrett Anderson were inscribed on the Medical Register as permitted to practise. There are relatively sparse records surviving of this body of pioneer women, but the archives of the successor body, the Medical Women’s Federation, now held in the Wellcome Library, do include the earliest minute book and a few other items.

An online sources guide provides a brief overview of Archives and Manuscripts’ substantial holdings on women in medicine since the medieval period; a further guide provides information on sources about women in nursing, midwifery and health visiting.

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall

Lesley Hall, FRHistS, PhD, DipAA, has been an archivist at the Wellcome since 1979. She has published extensively on the history of sexuality and gender in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries, given many talks and conference presentations, and featured on radio and television. Further details can be found at her website.

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