The Edinburgh Seven
The Edinburgh Seven were the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university. They began studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh in 1869 and although they were ultimately prevented from graduating and qualifying as doctors, the campaign they fought gained national attention and won them many supporters, including Charles Darwin. Their campaign put the rights of women to a university education on the national political agenda, which eventually resulted in legislation to ensure that women could study at university in 1877.
In 1870, an angry mob gathered at the Surgeons’ Hall with the aim of preventing the Edinburgh Seven from sitting their anatomy exam. The resulting riot attracted widespread publicity and won greater public support for the women’s campaign for a university education. Ultimately the students’ bid to graduate was thwarted, but their plight put the right of women to study on the national political agenda.
Sophia Jex-Blake led the campaign with six other women, collectively known as the Edinburgh Seven. The six other women are Mary Anderson, Emily Bovel, Matilda Chaplin, Helen, Evans, Edith Pechey, and Isabel Thorne.
The University of Edinburgh allowed women to graduate in 1894 and the first doctors graduated in 1896. They still had to organise their own tuition.
The stories of the Edinburgh Seven 'Inspiring Women' are included in these webpages.
Note - As yet we have been unable to source images for all of the Edinburgh Seven, but felt we could not publish these pages without making reference to all of the inspiring women.