Plaque honours first women at University

A plaque to commemorate the first women admitted on a degree programme at any British university has been unveiled.

They are one of eight historical figures or groups to be recognised as part of the Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaques Scheme, now in its fourth year.

The Edinburgh Seven

The Edinburgh Seven matriculated to study medicine in 1869 and were the first women to be admitted to the University.

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.

The Surgeons' Hall Riot marked a turning point in the campaign for women’s right to a university education – attracting widespread publicity and winning greater political support. I am delighted that the Edinburgh Seven are being recognised for their role in this important historical moment and the drive for equality in education.

Professor Jane NormanVice Principal of People and Culture, University of Edinburgh

Historic figures

The Commemorative Plaques Scheme is designed to celebrate the life and achievements of significant historic figures.

Plaques are erected on their homes, or buildings that are synonymous with their achievements.

Nominations are submitted by members of the public. An independent panel of experts selected the final eight recipients of the accolade.


The Edinburgh Seven plaque was unveiled by Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop at a ceremony in the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum.

It will eventually be mounted on one of the gateposts of the Royal College of Surgeons on Nicolson Street in Edinburgh.

I don’t think many can lay claim to having had a more far-reaching impact than those brave and determined women known as the Edinburgh Seven. My hope is that in the years to come, even a tiny percentage of the many thousands who walk past Surgeons’ Hall, notice this small plaque and take inspiration of what can be achieved when a determined few decide to stand up to the injustices inherent in our society.

Ms Fiona HyslopCabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Scottish Government


The Edinburgh Seven were Sophia Jex-Blake, Isabel Thorne, Edith Pechey, Matilda Chaplin, Helen Evans, Mary Anderson, and Emily Bovell.

They were nominated for the Commemorative Plaque by Jo Spiller, Learning Technology Senior Advisor at the University of Edinburgh.