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. 

Sophia Jex-Blake Casket and Address 1894
Sophia Jex-Blake Casket and Address 1894. University Collections 0041803.

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 - Unfortunately 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 these inspiring women.


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Sophia Jex-Blake

One of the Edinburgh Seven who studied medicine at Edinburgh. (unable to source photo)

One of the 'seven' who studied medicine at Edinburgh in 1871. (unable to source photo).

As well as being one of the Edinburgh Seven, Matilda Chaplin was a British physician. (unable to source photo)

The fifth member of the Edinburgh Seven. (unable to source photo).

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

Another to respond to Sophia Jex-Blake's advert calling for women to join her campaign. (unable to source photo).