Focus On... Women in Uniform
 
* Scottish Women's Hospitals - Profile  
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Introduction
Nurses in the Crimea
Nurses in the British Army
Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps
Scottish Women's Hospitals

1. Introduction

2. Profile

3. Sources

4. Further Reading

Women's Royal Naval Service
Women in WWII
Links
Credits
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Dr Elsie Inglis and her staff  who were interned in Austria. Imperial War Museum,  Department of Printed Documents : Women's Work Collection. Ref: BRCS 24.6/25 Dr Elsie Inglis and her staff who were interned in Austria. Imperial War Museum, Department of Printed Documents: Women's Work Collection. Ref: BRCS 24.6/25

Suffragist Dr Elsie Maud Inglis was the founder of The Scottish Women's Hospitals. She was reputedly a tenacious woman, with enlightened parents who supported her in her ambition to become a doctor in a time when women were expected to be wives and mothers.

She set up a women's medical school in Edinburgh, qualified as a surgeon, founded the Scottish Women's Suffrage Federation and went on to tirelessly set up and work in hospital units on the frontline during the First World War.

Her dedication to her cause lead to one biographer saying that she "made Florence Nightingale look like a part-time care assistant in comparison". She was also said to have been a very strict disciplinanarian, often reducing her nursing sisters to despair with her short temper and furious rages.

Elsie Inglis was born on 16th August 1864 at Nynee Tal in India. Her baptism record is held at the British Library, Oriental and India Office Collection, microfilm reference: N/1/110/75. Unfortunately the British Library are unable to offer a scanned copy as these records are not available on-line. Please see the sources page for information on how to obtain these types of records.

Baptism register N/1/110 held by the British Library, Oriental and India Office Collection.
Baptism register N/1/110 held by the British Library, Oriental and India Office Collection.
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Transcription of N/1/110/75
Solemnized at Nynee Tal
Baptised 1864 October 12th
Born 1864 August 16th
Eliza Maude, girl
Parents - John Forbes and Harriet Inglis.
Abode, Nynee Tal.
Trade/Profession - Coms (Commissioner)of Rohilcund.
Baptised by G.Davey Symonds, Chaplain.

Note from the British Library: There are transcription errors in the records. The mispelling of Elsie's name could have occurred during the transcription phase before the record was sent to the UK or she could have been baptised Eliza and used Elsie instead.

Detail from 1891 census showing Elsie Inglis living with her father and three servants.. This document was obtained from the General Register Office Scotland. RD 685/4 (Edinburgh, St Giles) ED74 p6 schedule 14
Detail from 1891 census showing Elsie Inglis living with her father and three servants. This document was obtained from the General Register Office Scotland. RD 685/4 (Edinburgh, St Giles) ED74 p6 schedule 14
View the 1891 census showing Elsie Inglis listed along with the other members of her household. Opens in a new window - 113k  See more
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Having studied medicine at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, Elsie Inglis qualified as a doctor in 1892. She initially went to work as a house-surgeon at the "New Hospital for Women" in London's Euston Road that had been founded by the first English woman doctor, Mrs Garrett Anderson.

She returned to Edinburgh in 1894 to be near her now dying father, and in 1901, along with Jessie MacGregor, helped set up a medical practice, specifically for the care of poor women in Edinburgh High Street. She often waived her fees and financed seaside convalesence for patients

Detail from the 1901 census showing Elsie Inglis listed along with the other members of her household. This document was obtained from the General Register Office Scotland. RD 685/1 (Edinburgh, St George) ED1 p11 schedule 65
Detail from the 1901 census showing Elsie Inglis listed along with the other members of her household including Jessie MacGregor. This document was obtained from the General Register Office Scotland. RD 685/1 (Edinburgh, St George) ED1 p11 schedule 65
View the 1901 census showing Elsie Inglis listed along with the other members of her household. Opens in a new window - 113k See more
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Through her experiences, Dr Inglis was particularly interested in repealing a law that said a woman could not have an operation without her husband's consent. She became increasingly aware that without polictical action the medical care of women was not going to be improved and in 1906 she founded the Scottish Women's Suffragette Federation.

It was Dr Inglis' efforts during the First World War that brought her to the knowledge of the public. When war broke out Inglis suggested the creation of women's medical units on the Western Front but the War Office were not interested and she was told by an official “My good lady, go home and sit still”

A Scottish Women's Hospital workstation. Imperial War Museum, Department of Printed Documents : Women's Work Collection - Ref: BRCS 24.6/25 A Scottish Women's Hospital workstation. Imperial War Museum, Department of Printed Documents: Women's Work Collection - Ref: BRCS 24.6/25

Dr Inglis was the wrong woman to be told such a thing and instead she made her offer to the French Goverment, whose acceptance led to the setting up of an Auxillary Hospital at Abbaye de Royaumont in 1914 and at another hospital in Villers Cotterets in 1917.

She was also active in arranging for the despatch of women's units to other fighting areas besides the Western Front: to Serbia, Salonika, Romania, Malta and Corsica in 1915 and to Russia the following year.

Inglis herself served in Serbia from 1915 making efforts to improve hygiene and reduce the disease epidemics raging there. She, along with other members of her staff, were captured and held prisoner until eventually released thanks to U.S. diplomatic pressure.

She returned home and immediately set about raising funds for a hospital in Russia. Not surprisingly she was successful and went there in 1916.

Through the long working hours and appalling conditions in Russia she was taken ill in 1917. She returned to England where she died the following day on 26 November, aged 53 at the Central Station Hotel, Newcastle. The cause of death listed on her death certificate is 1. Chronic gastro enteritis 2. Perforation of the bowel. She is buried at Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.

Detail from Elsie Inglis' Death Certificate showing the place and cause of death
Detail from Elsie Inglis' death certificate showing the place and cause of death. Provided by the Family Records Centre.
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After her death Winston Churchill was quoted as saying that she and her medical staff would "shine forever in history". However, even the memorial hospital in Edinburgh opened to commemorate her work has now closed down.

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