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The Women Who Ran A WW1 Hospital

Discussion in 'Military History' started by GRW, May 31, 2020.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "We have been gloriously happy."
    The inscription on Flora Murray's gravestone at Penn in Buckinghamshire - a long way from her native Dumfriesshire - gives little hint of what she lived through.
    Along with partner Louisa Garrett-Anderson she overcame enormous obstacles in order to be allowed to treat soldiers during World War One.
    The story of their Endell Street hospital in London - staffed almost entirely by women - is Radio 4's book of the week.
    Author Wendy Moore stumbled upon her inspiration in the Wellcome Library.
    A painting on the wall by war artist Francis Dodd - showing an operating theatre where all the doctors were female - got her "really hooked".
    The story of how Dr Murray, from near Dalton in southern Scotland, and Dr Garrett-Anderson, of Aldeburgh in Suffolk, set up that hospital is one of great tenacity.
    Ms Moore describes their almost entirely female-staffed facility as "totally unthinkable" and "totally unprecedented".
    In 1865 the first woman trained in Britain qualified as a doctor - Dr Garrett-Anderson's mother, Elizabeth - but on the eve of WW1 they were still restricted to treating only women and children.
    Ms Moore said that meant women were "effectively barred" from working in mainstream hospitals or getting "well-paid and well-respected" jobs in surgery.
    It left Dr Murray and Dr Garrett-Anderson "angry and frustrated" at the inability to progress in their profession despite about 10 years' experience.
    "Partly because of that discrimination they had both joined the Suffragette movement," Ms Moore said.
    Dr Garrett-Anderson was jailed for smashing a window while Dr Murray was seen as the "honorary doctor" of the movement treating, among others, Emmeline Pankhurst.
    When war came they wanted to "do their bit" but also realised it was a "unique opportunity".
    "They didn't bother to go to the War Office because they knew that would be rejected," said Ms Moore.
    "Instead, they went to the French Red Cross and they accepted them.
    "They gave them a brand new hotel in Paris and they were allowed to then convert that into a hospital for the wounded."
    A second hospital was set up near Boulogne and, slowly, the British Army came round to the work the female doctors were doing.
    It would eventually lead to them being asked to run a military hospital in London - Endell Street, a former workhouse, with more than 500 beds.
    Over the next few years they would treat more than 24,000 seriously injured soldiers."
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Jan 5, 2013
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    London UK
    She is a local hero in the London Borough of Camden
    Dr Elizabeth Garrett Anderson – a true pioneer

    In the 1870s women were taking professional roles in hospitals, particularly for the military. Florence Nightingale is thought of as a compassionate nurse, "the lady with the lamp". However, her real expertise was in hospital administration, and setting an example for respectable, middle and upper class women to follow. In 1870 when the Franco-German war started, several Nightingale trained women ran hospitals and ambulances for the Red Cross.. Many of these were the wives of senior British officers. Some of these memsahibs brought medical staff from India.

    There was a vary complimentary report to RUSI in April 1871 about their work.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2020
    GRW likes this.

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