Thursday, March 19, 2015

New rare book acquisition: Medical Women by Sophia Jex-Blake

Last month we were lucky to acquire a copy of Sophia Jex-Blake's Medical Women: A Thesis in History. First published in 1872, ours is the expanded second edition, published by Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier in Edinburgh, 1886.




It's bound in rather flamboyant bright scarlet cloth with gold lettering!


Sophia Jex-Blake was one of the first female physicians in Great Britain. She was a leading advocate for women's rights and medical education for women. Interestingly, our copy of the book has the signature of Thomas B. Jex-Blake, and a note presenting the book from Miss Th. B. Jex-Blake to a Dr. Wyatt.


As "Thomas" appears to be the preferred name for men in the Jex-Blake lineage, it will take more research to determine how this individual is related to Sophia, and who Dr. Wyatt might be.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is a detailed account of the Surgeons' Hall Riot in Edinburgh. In 1870, hundreds of protestors blocked seven women medical students (known as the "Edinburgh Seven") from entering the school for an anatomy lecture. Withstanding verbal and physical abuse, the women finally accessed the building. The riot was the culmination of an ongoing, organized campaign to harass and threaten the women students. However, media coverage of the riot created public sympathy for the women students, and broadened support for medical education for women. Unfortunately, the university eventually refused to graduate the students. Soon after, Sophia Jex-Blake founded the London School of Medicine for Women. Most of the original seven women from Edinburgh attended the school.

Medical Women will be cataloged for the History of Medicine Collection, and available for research in our reading room.

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