Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: 180 Years of Legacy

The first Englishwoman Physician, Surgeon, Dean and Mayor.

We previously wrote about women who paved the path for modern day surgery. Women who were pivotal in the development of modern day medicine and surgery.

Today, marks the 180th birthday of the first Englishwoman Surgeon and physician, Elizabeth Garett Anderson, born in Whitechapel, London, in 1836.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson is of the UK’s most eminent feminists, and here we will share with you her most notable achievements.

The first Englishwoman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain

Garrett’s medical career began at Middlesex Hospital in 1860 where she trained to become a surgical nurse. Her good work was recognised and she was invited to attend an outpatients clinic and later her first operation. Her passion for medicine led her to learn anatomy after she was denied enrollment into medical school. After obtaining a certificate in anatomy and physiology, Garrett was admitted by the Society of Apothecaries who, as a condition of their charter, could not legally exclude her on account of her sex. Garrett eventually qualified to practice medicine in 1865.

The first dean of a British medical school 

Having experienced sexual inequality herself, Garett co-founded the London School of Medicine in 1874 – the first hospital staffed by women and the only teaching hospital in Britain to offer places to women. She served as a dean from 1883-1902. This school was later called the Royal Free Hospital of Medicine which later became part of what is now the medical school at University College London.

The first female doctor of medicine in France

Garrett  heard the dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of Sorbonne, Paris was in favour of admitting women as medical students. This led Garrett to study French so she could apply for a medical degree, which she obtained in 1870 after some difficulty.

The first female magistrate in Britain

As Mayor of Aldeburgh, Garrett became the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain.In 1871 Garrett married James George Skelton, and in 1907 they retired to Aldeburgh in Suffolk. She was was elected mayor of the coastal town in November 1908, a position previously held by her father. She died there in December 1917.


After 180 years, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson legacy continues.

The New Hospital for Women was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital in 1918 and amalgamated with the Obstetric Hospital in 2001 to form the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospital before relocating to become the University College Hospital Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing at UCH.

The former Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital buildings are incorporated into the new National Headquarters for the public service trade union UNISON.

The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery, a permanent installation set within the restored hospital building, uses a variety of media to set the story of Garrett Anderson, her hospital, and women’s struggle to achieve equality in the field of medicine within the wider framework of 19th and 20th century social history.

A secondary school for girls in Islington, London is named after her; Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School.

The archives of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson are held at The Women’s Library at the Library of the London School of Economics.

The archives of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (formerly the New Hospital for Women) are held at the London Metropolitan Archives.