Elsie Inglis

Born 16 August 1864, died 26 November 1917

Elsie Inglis was the daughter of Harriet Thompson, and John Forbes Inglis, magistrate. She attended the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women and later worked as a house surgeon in the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital for Women in London. After gaining midwifery experience at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, she set up medical practice in Edinburgh in 1894 in partnership with Jessie McGregor. In 1899 she gained her MBChM from the University of Edinburgh. After travelling to Austria and the USA, she established a nursing home and maternity centre in Edinburgh, the Hospice in the High Street, which became a recognised training centre for midwives. By 1910, the Hospice had amalgamated with the Bruntsfield Hospital for Women and Children, under her direction.

During the First World War, the authorities turned down Elsie Inglis's suggestion that women serve in the Royal Army Medical Corps. The War Office told her to '... Go home and sit still’, so she set about organising hospitals staffed by women. The Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Home and Foreign Service movement, supported by the Scottish Federation of Women’s Suffrage Societies, played a key role in wartime medical services. The women offered their services to the Allies, establishing hospitals in France, Greece and Serbia. Elsie Inglis travelled to Serbia in 1915, where she stayed until her unit was imprisoned following the Serbian retreat. After release she returned to Scotland, then went back to the war zones. She became increasingly ill during 1917 and only three days after arriving at Newcastle upon Tyne in November, she died.

She was prominent in the campaign for female suffrage and in Liberal politics, as Vice-President of the Central Edinburgh Women’s Liberal Association and a convinced Home Ruler. She campaigned for equal opportunities for female and male students, and helped found Muir Hall of residence for women at the University of Edinburgh. Her obituary in the British Medical Journal on 17 December 1917 described her as a ‘born leader, entirely patriotic and free from self-seeking’.

Detail from the Great Tapestry of Scotland
The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women.
Based on an entry by Helen Dingwal
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The picture is a panel of the Great Tapestry of Scotland