GARRETT ANDERSON, Elizabeth (1836-1917)
Plaque erected in 1962 by London County Council at 20 Upper Berkeley Street, Marylebone, London, W1H 7PF, City of Westminster
ELIZABETH GARRETT ANDERSON 1836-1917 The first woman to qualify as a doctor in Britain lived here
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Britain. It was while living at 20 Upper Berkeley Street in Marylebone from 1865 to 1874 that she set up her ground-breaking medical practice.
The elder sister of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Elizabeth Garrett joined the Langham Place Group together with her friend, Emily Davies, in the 1850s. The group, which took its name from the offices of The English Woman’s Journal, was at the centre of an emerging women’s movement in Britain and Garrett began to campaign for extending women’s employment.
After meeting Elizabeth Blackwell, an Englishwoman who had gained an MD in the United States, she became determined to train as a doctor. She sidestepped the ban on female medical students at universities and hospitals by studying privately, and exploited a loophole that allowed her to qualify as a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in 1865. Her name was duly entered on the medical register.
Later that year, Elizabeth Garrett moved to 20 Upper Berkeley Street, where she set up in practice and gave lectures on physiology to a female audience. In June 1866 she moved her practice around the corner to 69 Seymour Place, which opened as the St Mary’s Dispensary for Women and Children. This ‘nucleus of a hospital’ received its first in-patients in 1871, and as the New Hospital for Women moved to a larger building in Marylebone Road in 1874, and then to purpose-built premises in Euston Road in 1890. It was the first hospital in Britain to be staffed entirely by women, and appropriately was renamed after its founder in 1918.
Anderson’s work paved the way for the acceptance of women in the practice of medicine. The British examining bodies gradually opened their examinations to women and the London School of Medicine for Women was founded in 1874. Anderson was a lecturer there from 1875 to 1897 and served as its dean from 1883 to 1902. Soon afterwards, the London Hospital agreed to allow women to gain practical experience in its wards. For 19 years, Anderson was the only woman member of the British Medical Association, to which she was elected in 1873.
Elizabeth Garrett married the ship-owner JGS Anderson (1838/9–1907) in 1871 and three years later moved further down the street to 4 Upper Berkeley Street. This was the Andersons’ London home until 1902, when they retired to Aldeburgh, Suffolk. In 1908 Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was elected Mayor of Aldeburgh – an office previously held by her husband – thereby becoming Britain’s first female mayor. She died in Aldeburgh in 1917.
Read more about Elizabeth Garrett Anderson on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.