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Medical Protection celebrates first women in healthcare

Post date: 06/03/2020 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 06/03/2020

International Women’s Day – celebrated 8 March every year- aims to, among other causes, honour the achievements of women throughout history and across the globe. Medical Protection is proud to support women in healthcare and has today unveiled information about its first women members.

Medical Protection is part of MPS, which currently has over 155,000 female members around the world. This represents more than half of our membership - and that figure is on the rise.

MPS membership is only a reflection of the importance of women in healthcare with 45% of NHS hospital specialists being female and 44% NHS CEOs being women.

Historically however, it wasn’t easy for women to enter the profession. Medical schools were not opened to women and they had to pass their exams incognito before being able to officially register. The first female medics appear to have joined the register in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Research by MPS has revealed three of the earliest women doctors to join the organisation - then known as the London and Counties Medical Protection Society did so within a few years of it being founded in 1892.

Dame Mary Ann Dacomb Scharlieb DBE was MPS’s first woman member. Joining in November 1899. She was a gynaecologist and a surgeon and worked at the New Hospital for Women - known today as Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital, along with Dr Anderson.

Dr Anderson’s daughter, Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson, was also one of MPS’s earliest members having joined in 1903. She is not only notable for her medical work - she along with others established the Endell Street Military Hospital in Covent Garden - but also because of her suffragette activities which led her to be imprisoned. Her name and statue can be found along with other women’s suffrage supporters, including her aunt Dame Millicent Fawcett, in London’s Parliament Square.

Dr Mary Hannah Frances Ivens CBE FRCOG joined MPS in 1907 and she was notable for being the first woman appointed to a hospital consultant post in Liverpool. She served as the President of the Medical Women’s Federation from 1924 to 1926 and was Chief Medical Officer at the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont, in France. Like some of her contemporaries, she was active in the suffragette’s movement. 

Professor Dame Jane Dacre, President of the Medical Protection Society, said:

“Although it wasn’t until the turn of the century that women were seen entering the medical and dental profession officially – and being able to study, register and be remunerated for their work –healthcare began at home and within communities, and caring for the infirmed had long been the responsibility of women.

“Nowadays, although almost half of healthcare workers are women, we still have structural barriers to overcome in order to improve the access of women to senior positions.

“It has not been an easy journey, but I am proud of the work MPS does to support the efforts of women – who now account for more than half of our membership.”

Notes to editors

For further information contact: patricia.canedo@medicalprotection.org (+44) 207 640 5183.

About MPS

The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”) is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.

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