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  • Writer's pictureKenneth Gibson MSP

MARION GILCHRIST, SCOTLAND’S FIRST FEMALE MEDICINE GRADUATE AND LEADING SUFFRAGETTE


Born in 1864 in Bothwell Marion Gilchrist was one of the first nine women to enrol in the newly opened Medical School at Queen Margaret College, Glasgow in 1890, despite her father’s belief that women studying academic subjects was ‘pointless.’


Following four years of study, Marion gained the distinction of being Scotland’s the first female medical graduate, winning a high commendation.


Following graduation, Marion worked as a GP in Glasgow’s West End of Glasgow, specialising in eye diseases and from 1914 until 1930, she was also Assistant Surgeon for Diseases of the Eye at the Victoria Infirmary.


In 1927, Marion became an ophthalmic surgeon at Redlands Hospital for Women. During this time, she also volunteered as a physician at Queen Margaret College Settlement’s Invalid Children’s School.


Throughout her career, Marion was a leading member of the British Medical Association and the first woman chair of its Glasgow division. In 1922, she was elected as President of the Glasgow and West Scotland Association of the Medical Federation and was also a trustee of the Muirhead Trust which still offers financial support to women studying medical sciences and engineering to this day.


In 1903, Marion assisted in founding the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women’s Suffrage. She left in 1907 to join the more radical Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League, campaign groups that believed in demanding, rather than requesting, for women’s right to vote.


Believing that non-militant societies were making insufficient progress, Marion stated:


“The old school had managed to persuade over 400 members of Parliament to pledge themselves in favour of the cause, but have they got the vote yet?”


Instead, the more militant groups began disrupting public meetings and protesting. These actions eventually led to some women over the age of 30 being granted the right to vote in 1918.


Despite her busy life, Marion found time for her motoring passion. Her ‘prim dark green Wolseley Landaulette’ was kept in Marion’s garage beside her chauffeur’s house on Ashton Lane, Glasgow.


Following her death in 1952, Glasgow University established the Marion Gilchrist Prize, awarded annually to ‘the most distinguished woman graduate in medicine of the year’.


In 2011, the Gilchrist Garden was opened in Bothwell to commemorate her life, which holds a memorial sculpture designed by Adrian Wiszniewski, one of the New Glasgow Boys.

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