Equality and Diversity

Edinburgh Seven

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.


Related Link:

Sophia Jex-Blake

Mary Anderson

Mary Anderson one of the Edinburgh Seven -(Photo being sourced)

Emily Bovell

Emily Bovell signature
One of the 'seven' who studied medicine at Edinburgh in 1871. (Photo being sourced).

Matilda Chaplin

Matilda Chaplin
As well as being one of the Edinburgh Seven, Matilda Chaplin was a British physician. (Photo being sourced)

Helen Evans

Helen Evans was the fifth member of the Edinburgh Seven. (Photo being sourced).

Edith Pechey

Edith Pechey
One of the first women doctors in the United Kingdom and a campaigner for women's rights .

Isabel Thorne

Isabel (Jane) Thorne
Isabel Thorne - another to respond to Sophia Jex-Blake's advert calling for women to join her campaign. (Photo being sourced).