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Title: Women in medicine in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Edinburgh : a case study
Author: Thomson, Elaine
ISNI:       0000 0004 2676 3508
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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This thesis explores the foundation and operation of the first hospital to be established and run by women doctors in Scotland, the Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children (1885), and its sister Hospital, the Hospice (1899) (the Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital). Its main concern is to consider the social and cultural factors which shaped women doctors' professional interests at these institutions. Chapter 1 outlines notions of feminine propriety which prevailed in the Victorian penod, and considers how middle-class women sought to subvert these restrictions and gain for themselves some sort of active role in public life. The foundation of the Edinburgh Hospital, and the Hospice, is considered within this context. The women who made up the Executive Committee of the Hospital are shown to have been part of a wider local and national feminist network, and this support undoubtedly contributed to the Hospitals' success. Chapter 2 looks at the significance for the medical women of the changing nature of medical knowledge in the late nineteenth century. In this period the discipline of physiology gradually shifted from a holistic conception of the body to a more organ centred, reductionist model. Women doctors argued that the older conception of physiology, which could also be understood as hygiene, was of great interest to female practitioners. Women doctors, they suggested, would be the most suitable ambassadors for the dissemination of knowledge of personal and domestic hygiene to women at large. As the dispensers of such knowledge, it was also suggested that women doctors would act as agents of morality with regard to health, cleanliness and moderation amongst this important constituency. Chapter 3 suggests that the actual practice of medicine at the Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children reflected the same preoccupation with hygiene and the holistic conception of physiology that had been used in women's arguments to enter the medical profession in the 1870s. The theme of morality, specifically the morality implicit in the practice of medicine at the Edinburgh Hospital continues to be explored. Chapter 4 shifts the focus of attention to the recipients, rather than the providers, of medical care at the Edinburgh Hospital by considering the lower middle and working-class women who received medical treatment there. It explores the illnesses (and their causes) which these patients complained of, and explores the social role which the Hospital served in the community, from its foundation in 1885 to the end of the century. Chapter 5 is concerned with the medical women's work at the Hospice. It discusses the emergence of a distinct specialism, infant and maternal welfare, which occurred at this institution from 1905. The development of this specialism is linked to the limited opportunities which existed for medical women in the city, as well as to the moral role in medical practice which they had outlined for themselves in the previous century. Chapter 6 continues to explore these themes in relation to the development of the Edinburgh Hospital as a centre for the treatment of VD in the inter-war period. A growing pragmatism amongst the medical women is observed, and a shift in the moral tone of their work is pinpointed as they become increasingly bound up with the propaganda campaigns of the NCCVD and the Public Health Department of Edinburgh Town Council.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Not available Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available