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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 H72
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1874-2001
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 42.5 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine xx London School of Medicine for Women


Administrative/Biographical history:

The London School of Medicine for Women was the first medical school in Britain to allow women to train to become fully qualified doctors. Many pioneering women doctors trained and worked at the School, including Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Louisa Aldrich-Blake, and Mary Scharlieb.

Until 1874 it was almost impossible for women to train as doctors in Britain. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who was Dean of the School from 1883-1903, was actually the first woman to qualify in Medicine, but as soon as she had done so, in 1865, the loophole which allowed her to do so was closed, preventing others from following in her footsteps.

The London School of Medicine for Women was set up by a group of pioneering women physicians, led by Sophia Jex-Blake, who had been expelled from Edinburgh University after beginning their medical training, together with some male doctors who supported women's entry into the medical profession. It was the first medical school in Britain to admit women, and the only school to do so until 1886.

The School opened in 1874, in a small house in Henrietta Street, off Brunswick Square. At first, students were taught in laboratories and classrooms at the School by a group of male lecturers. Then in 1877, an agreement was reached with the Royal Free Hospital which allowed students at the London School of Medicine for Women to complete their clinical studies on its wards. The Royal Free Hospital was the first teaching hospital in London to admit women for training. In recognition of this relationship, in 1898 the School changed its name to The London (Royal Free Hospital) School of Medicine for Women.

The School building was rebuilt and enlarged in 1898. The main entrance was moved to the Hunter Street side of the building, and the address changed to reflect this. The School was further enlarged in 1914, when the number of women wishing to study medicine made it necessary to practically double the number of laboratories and lecture rooms. At this time the school had over 300 students, making it the largest of the women's university colleges in Britain. In just 40 years the number of women on the medical register had increased from two to 1000, 600 of whom were graduates of the School.

The School was noted for its strong links with other countries, beginning in 1890 when the first Indian female student enrolled. Many students went abroad to help train female doctors in cultures where women could not be seen by male doctors. This part of the School's mission was encouraged by Queen Victoria, who felt very strongly that all her subjects in the Empire should have access to proper medical treatment.

Increasing numbers of students were admitted, particularly when the First World War took many male medical students overseas. Past students of the School did valiant work for the war effort at this time, voluntarily staffing all-female medical units across Europe, and female medical students who were refugees from European universities also joined the School temporarily.

The School remained women-only until 1948, when all medical schools became co-educational under the newly inaugurated National Health Service (NHS). This necessitated another change of name for the School, to the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine.

By the 1950s, the School was pre-eminent in medical research, known particularly for its Medical Unit, renal unit and haemophilia centre.

When the Royal Free Hospital moved to Hampstead in 1974, the school followed, finally moving all its activities from Hunter Street by 1983.

After World War Two the School was threatened by three successive government reports (in 1946, 1968 and 1980), either with closure or with merger with another school. Each time the School rejected the proposals. In 1998 however, the School finally merged with University College London to form a new school, the Royal Free and University College Medical School. In October 2008 it was officially renamed UCL Medical School.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the London School of Medicine for Women and related collections including the official corporate records of the London School of Medicine for Women (later the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine), from its foundation in 1874 to its merger with University College London In 1998.

It also contains a number of smaller collections relating to individuals associated with the London School of Medicine for Women, women's entry into the medical profession in Britain, and early women's medical training in India. These are:
Louisa Aldrich-Blake
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
Sophia Jex-Blake
Countess of Dufferin Fund

Administrative records are open for public inspection. Student files have a general closure period of 100 years from date of birth.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

H72/CDF Countess Dufferin Fund
H72/EGA Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Collection
H72/LAB Louisa Aldrich-Blake Collection
H72/SJB Sophia Jex-Blake Collection
H72/London School of Medicine for Women

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright is held by the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

The records of the school and its related collections were transferred from the Royal Free Hospital Archives Centre to London Metropolitan Archives in 2013.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in December 2013.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Papers relating to the merger of the school with University College London can be found under reference LMA/4068.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Added May 2014

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