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22.9.10

The Admission of Women to Medical Degrees

In researching my post on Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, I came across this lovely gem of a letter published in The Lancet in 1878:

SIR,—I hope you will allow me to direct attention to the kind of examination-as shown by recent papers-which women will have to undergo, in company with young men, in order to gain admission to the medical degrees of the University of London. I ask this in the hope that many of the Arts, Laws, and Science graduates who read THE LANCET may be enlightened upon this particular point. On turning to the examination-papers for the last half-dozen years, I find, amongst others, the following questions, set by the examiners: [selected few to follow]

  • Second M.B., 1873.-" Give an account of the modes in which syphilis becomes propagated; the details by which the poison is diffused throughout the system, &c."
  • First M.B., 1873.-" Describe the connexion of the lower four inches of the rectum in the male, the naked-eye character of the coats of the gut for the same distance, &c."
  • First M.B., 1875.-" Give an account of the genito-urinary organs of the human male."
  • B.S., 1876.-"Describe in the order of their frequency the several growths which affect the testis, and mention the signs on which you would chiefly rely in the diagnosis of each."
  • Second M.B., 1875 (Honours).-" What constitutes rape. Mention the lesions which may result from rape (a) in the case of adults, and (b) in the case of children, pointing out the local affections of the genital organs which may simulate the effects of rape, &c."
Is it surprising that the great majority of the medical graduates view with "detestation" the proposal that women should be admitted to the same degrees as men ; the possibility that young women and young men should be subjected to a precisely similar examination, at the same time, and in the same testing-room, upon the topics dealt with in the above quoted questions, and that they should similarly undergo the necessary anatomical and clinical training to fit them for passing such an examination; and, lastly, that women should be encouraged and actively aided to enter the list in honours, in competition with young men at the same table, and, if possible, to carry off the palm for a more intimate acquaintance and superior knowledge upon such subjects as diseases of the testicles, rape, and the like. To my mind the thing is revolting in the extreme, and I believe that when the real facts of the case are known to them, very few non-medical graduates would countenance, in its present form, the proposal to admit women to medical degrees in the University. Yours faithfully, TILBURY FOX.
Well... how about that. Way to go Dr. Fox.