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The Edinburgh Seven (Hardback)

The Story of the First Women to Study Medicine

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > By Century > 19th Century Women of History World History > UK & Ireland > Scotland

By Janey Jones
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Trailblazing Women
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 15 mono
ISBN: 9781399099233
Published: 24th April 2023

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Women have healed since the beginning of time, but accessing a formal degree in medicine was impossible for them in Britain until the late 19th century. In 1869, a group of women began arriving in Edinburgh to study at the medical faculty, led by the indomitable Sophia Jex Blake. They would eventually be known around the world as The Edinburgh Seven. They were delighted to become students of medicine and as Sophia said, they simply wanted 'a fair field and no favour'.

But some of the traditional professors at the university did not approve of women becoming practising doctors. The medical women would soon discover that they were welcome as hobbyists but not as competitors with male students. There were legal wrangles, court cases, personal attacks and even a full blown riot - all because some male medics wanted rid of the women. And the women did leave Edinburgh - without degrees. But they finished their studies in mainland Europe and came back as fully fledged doctors.

In 2019, the University of Edinburgh awarded the Seven their degrees posthumously via current day medical students. At last, the right thing was done, but the struggles of the original Seven should never be forgotten. This is their story.

This is the first I have read by Janey Jones, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I liked her way of drawing the reader and giving the knowledge needed to learn about these women without making it feel like hard work, I felt encouraged to want to learn more - which is always a good sign of an interesting and well-crafted book!

I hadn't heard of the Edinburgh Seven before reading this, but after reading this one I will certainly be eager to learn more about the seven women who are the focus of this book!

I liked how this is written it felt quite informal to how other history books are written, it's incredibly easy to read it never felt heavy or as though you are growing in too many facts and figures the historical information is beautifully woven with opinion, insight and well researched knowledge.

A definite must-read for anyone interested in the topic!

NetGalley, Frankie Dannatt

I loved learning about this lesser known piece of history. About the women who were brave enough to study medicine at Edinburgh University. It's no surprise that this was kept out of the history books.

NetGalley, Carissa Miller

Article: Author Janey Jones tells Bill Gibb the story of seven pioneering female doctors

People's Friend

Article: Seven women's battle to study medicine revealed

East Lothian Courier

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Everyone loves hearing about women doing well but this was wonderful to read! This is something that should be taught in schools everywhere!

NetGalley, Morgan Schaer

As seen in The National

The National, Adam Robertson

It was a very interesting read and a great introduction to these women I had not heard of before but who were true forerunners.

NetGalley, Juliane Silver

I'd never heard of the Edinburgh Seven before, so this was a very interesting find! It's sad that the stories of these trailblazing women have been somewhat lost to history, but I hope this book and others like it help to change it.

Recommended if you like reading about awesome historical women, particularly if you have interest in the medical field.

NetGalley, Lauren M

This book gives brief biographies of each of the seven as well as copious notes on various other parties such as Christison. I’m truly delighted that Janey Jones has raised the profile of the seven women – the ability of a vociferous minority of bigots to influence so many intelligent people who should have known better should have a higher profile. I was really pleased that, although Sophia Jex-Blake was the instigator and was generally the spokesperson for the group, the author covers the other six women in detail too. I did like the short chapters (there are 35 in this 165-page book) – the punchy, bite-size chunks work well.

NetGalley, Colin Edwards

Women have been healers and midwives for eons but England didn’t allow them to be doctors or even the privilege to go to medical school until 1869. Even then they would an allowed them to do a resident term and see real patients in the infirmary what’s most ironic is that they claimed women didn’t have the constitution nor intellect due to their fragile and feeble nature to view the gross and disgusting sites they see daily as doctors yet to stop them they called them ugly names threw vegetables at them and got drunk before going with almost 200 people to keep them from entering to take their final exams. The seven women were determined however in splattered with mud and bruises from old vegetables they went in and took the test and although the fight wasn’t over because if they couldn’t work on real patients then they couldn’t have a full doctorate and that is what this book is about their fight to become legitimate doctors from the advertisement asking for women wanting to study medicine to the conclusion of their fight to be legitimate and I found it all so interesting. I thought Janie Jones did a wonderful job telling the story of their plight and it’s all in this book The Edinburgh Seven. I loved the intricate details of all the stories that lead to the books awesome conclusion and it seems like Mrs. Jones has a great grasp on the subject it’s a book I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Janalyn Prude

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In The Edinburgh Seven, Jones brings the seven women who attempted to earn medical degrees from the University of Edinburgh to life. Jones’s attention to the historical record is apparent throughout the book, and she also provides “notes” about key contextual information (which allows the reader to better understand the historical context and significance of the Edinburgh Seven). Her book is highly readable for historians and non-expert readers alike thanks to her accessible prose and word choice and the good organization and length of the chapters. Jones is clearly familiar with the Edinburgh Seven and the nineteenth-century women’s rights movements in the United Kingdom and the United States, and her ability to make this information accessible is one of the many strengths of the book. The historical information is well-supported by primary source evidence and quotes, and Jones clearly introduces and brings the whole cast of characters to life. She uses her familiarity with the era to analyze the significance of the Edinburgh Seven and bring them to their rightful place in history. The book is easily readable and a great introduction to the Edinburgh Seven, especially since they have been historically marginalized within the larger historical narrative.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The book tells the story of inspirational seven women who fight to enter Edinburgh University to study medicine. In Victorian times women work mostly as midwives, healers, herbalists and nurses. The medical faculty was reserved for men. Becoming a female doctor was easy in Europe and America but not in Britain in the 1850s-60s. All the seven women were brought together by an advert placed by one of them in a Scottish newspaper ’The Scotsman’. Their determination changed women’s rights that other women followed. A very inspirational read - Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Meg Gajda

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was very interesting and such a thorough job on these women and what all they went through. I knew that there had been some struggle but this really shows just how much. I Highly recommend this.

NetGalley, Lori Clendenin

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

‘These resolute medical women would become renowned internationally as the Edinburgh Seven.’

I did not expect to love this as much as I did! It was truly fascinating. I am forever grateful that I was able to go to school and college and learn without being judged, picked on or faced with difficult challenges due to being female.

It was inspiring to read about these ladies especially with it being set in edinburgh (my home town)

‘From the early thirteenth century until 1870, women were, in effect, controlled in every respect by their husbands.’

I’m also graceful for the century I was born in! But even to this day, it is difficult for some women and girls to get an education, work and make their own choices.

‘Such sentiments, namely that women should not lead in society as God had designed them to ‘obey’ were defiantly part of the problem for the Seven.’

Oh my goodness! This boils my blood.

A must read if you want to be inspired.

NetGalley, Georgi B

About Janey Jones

Janey is a graduate of Edinburgh University where she studied English literature and language, as well as History of Art, Geography, Sociology and Philosophy. She is a trained English teacher at senior school level, but has also developed a successful writing career, initially for children and now moving into multiple genres. She lives outside Edinburgh by the sea. Janey has three grown-up sons. She has interests in women's history, film, walking, historical novels and art.

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