Pioneer Woman Doctor, Suffragist. She worked as a teacher, before applying for a place at Edinburgh University, having been home educated by her parents, a Baptist minister and a lawyer’s daughter who had studied Greek. She replied to Sophia Jex-Blake’s request in The Scotsman for more women to join her in her fight to be given a place at Edinburgh University and study to become a doctor. These women became known as the Edinburgh Seven. She passed the qualifying exam and applied to join the School of Medicine. She came top in the chemistry exam in her first year which should have given her the Hope Scholarship, but the Chemistry professor was concerned that because the women were getting higher grades it would cause upset amongst the men, so he awarded the scholarship to a man on the grounds that women were not part of the university class because they were taught separately. This meant that Mary did not have the standard certificate needed for a medical degree. The women appealed to the Senatus Academicus who ruled that they should have the standard certificate, but not be eligible for the scholarship, which gave use of the laboratory and a sum of money. This was widely reported in the newspapers and brought the matter to the public’s attention. Mary completed the course but was not awarded a degree; she then went to Ireland to learn midwifery and finally studied in Bern where she passed her medical exams in German. At this time Ireland began to licence women doctors. Mary passed their exams in Dublin in 1877, earning the right to be registered as a doctor. She became one of only seven women doctors in England at this time. She practised medicine in Leeds, founding and becoming president of the Medical Women's Federation of England. Elizabeth Garrett-Anderson, suggested Mary to George Kitteridge, an American business man, as a possible Senior Medical Officer for P.H.Cama’s scheme to bring female doctors to India to treat women; male doctors having never been allowed to tend women. Mary went to Cama Hospital in Bombay (now Mumbai) in 1883, learnt Hindi and starting a training programme for nurses. She became the first Senior Medical Officer in the first hospital in the world to be staffed by women. She also campaigned for women’s rights during her time in India, including equal pay with the male doctors, education for girls and child marriage. She fought for widows’ rights with protection from suttee. She met and married Herbert Musgrave Phipson through the Bombay Natural History Society where she was on the board of management. In 1896, during an outbreak of bubonic plague, she returned to Bombay. Her methods were then applied to the epidemic of cholera and the famine which followed. She returned to England in 1905, taking part in the Suffragist Mud March in London in 1907, despite being ill. It was the largest women’s demonstration up to that time and drew public attention to women’s rights. When she died, Herbert set up a scholarship in her name at London School of Medicine for Women. In India, the sanatorium at Nasik, Maharashtra was known as the Pechey-Phipson Sanatorium for Women and Children until 1964.
Sponsored by Ancestry
See more Pechey-Phipson or Pechey memorials in: