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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s


Marion Gilchrist

By Michael Moss

Marion Gilchrist (1864-1952), the daughter of a farmer in Bothwell, Lanarkshire, left school at the age of fourteen to work on the farm. Not content, she secretly enrolled in a correspondence course in English. In 1887 she matriculated as an Arts student at Queen Margaret College in Glasgow. She completed her course in 1889 and enrolled along with thirteen other women in the newly opened medical school. She graduated in July 1894, the first woman graduate of the University of Glasgow.

She went into general practice developing an interest in diseases of the eye. The death of her father in 1903 allowed her to set up in practice at 5 Buckingham Terrace where she was to remain for the rest of her life. Financially and professionally independent, she became openly politically active. During 1903 she joined the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women's Suffrage. She did not take part in militant action, preferring to devote her voluntary energies to medical charities. In 1914 she was appointed assistant surgeon for diseases of the eye at the Victoria Infirmary. She resigned in 1930 as she found it difficult to combine the position with that of ophthalmic surgeon at Redlands Hospital for Women to which she had been appointed in 1927.

She was a prominent member of the British Medical Association and the first woman chairman of the Glasgow division. She had a fierce sense of duty which she expected others to share. When a newly qualified woman doctor was visiting her during the Second World War and the air-raid warning sounded, she told her young colleague that she must return at once to her hospital on the other side of Glasgow even though bombs were falling outside.

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