University of Edinburgh to honour UK’s first female medical students

A Scottish university is searching for family members of seven women who will be awarded a posthumous degree 150 years after making history.

The so-called Edinburgh Seven were the first female medical students at any university in the UK.

They were not allowed to graduate after missing out on a narrow vote on the decision.

A spokeswoman for the University of Edinburgh said they wanted to “right that wrong” on the 150th anniversary of their matriculation day.

Sophia Jex-Blake, Isabel Thorne, Edith Pechey, Matilda Chaplin, Helen Evans, Mary Anderson Marshall and Emily Bovell will be awarded a posthumous MBChB on Saturday July 6.

Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the university, said: “We are pleased to commemorate the historic achievements of the Edinburgh Seven in this 150th anniversary year of them joining the University of Edinburgh.

“These honorary degrees recognise not just their academic achievements but the significant contribution these women made to widening access to a university education for generations to follow.”

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh unveiled a plaque commemorating the medics’ achievements last March.

  • Sophia Jex-Blake
  • Isabel Thorne
  • Edith Pechey
  • Matilda Chaplin
  • Helen Evans
  • Mary Anderson Marshall
  • Emily Bovell

The institute is also launching an appeal for family members of the seven women to come forward ahead of the ceremony.

Few photos exist of the women in the university’s archives and it is hoped family or others could also help with this.

Any family members of the Edinburgh Seven, or those with photographs, are asked to contact press.office@ed.ac.uk.

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