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
|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
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
St Giles) ED74 p6 schedule 14
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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 including Jessie
MacGregor. This document was obtained from the General Register Office
St George) ED1 p11 schedule 65
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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
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”
Scottish Women's Hospital workstation. Imperial War Museum, Department of Printed
- 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
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. Provided by the Family
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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.