Edith Pechey

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

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

After Sophia Jex-Blake's sole application to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh was turned down, she advertised in The Scotsman for more women to join her. The second letter she received was from Edith Pechey. In her letter, she wrote:

"Do you think anything more is requisite to ensure success than moderate abilities and a good share of perseverance? I believe I may lay claim to these, together with a real love of the subjects of study, but as regards any thorough knowledge of these subjects at present, I fear I am deficient in most."

Edith Pechey
Edith Pechey
Despite her concerns, Edith Pechey became one of the Edinburgh Seven, the first seven undergraduate students at any British University, and proved her academic ability by achieving the top grade in the Chemistry exam in her first year of study.

In 1873 the women had to give up the struggle to graduate at Edinburgh. One of Edith's next steps was writing to the College of Physicians in Ireland to ask them to let her take exams leading to a license in midwifery. Edith worked for a time at the Birmingham and Midland Hospital for Women then she went to the University of Bern, passed her medical exams in German at the end of January 1877 and was awarded an MD with a thesis 'Upon the constitutional causes of uterine catarrh'. Just at that time the Irish college decided to licence women doctors, and Edith passed their exams in Dublin in May.

During the next six years Edith practised medicine in Leeds, involving herself in women's health education and lecturing on a number of medical topics, including nursing. Partly in reaction to the exclusion of women by the International Medical Congress she set up the Medical Women's Federation of England and in 1882 was elected president.

 Edith then spent more than 20 years in India as a senior doctor at a women's hospital and was involved in a range of social causes, following which she and her husband returned to England in 1905 and she was soon involved in the suffrage movement.

Edith died from breast cancer aged 63 in 1908 while in a diabetic coma.


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