A name that few people could say they recognise, however Sophia Jex-Blake was a very special female and the property at 4 Manor Place a very special place in her life story.
Sophia was born in Hastings, England on the 21st January 1840. She was well educated and well travelled in her younger years and during a trip to America where she worked as an assistant to Dr Lucy Sewell (one of Americas pioneering physicians) she decided that she wanted to become a doctor herself.
She tried to get a University education at Harvard Universities Medical School but was turned down as a letter to her stated, “There is no provision for the education of women in any department of this university”.
In 1868 her father passed away and so she returned to England to stay with her mother. She still yearned to be educated as a doctor and so she applied to the University of Edinburgh in March 1869 and despite the Medical Faculty and the Senatus Academus voting in favour of allowing her to study medicine the University Court declined her request, the reason given was they could not make the arrangements for the ‘interest of one lady’.
Sophia Jex-Blake took things into her own hands and put advertisements in newspapers asking for other women interested in a medical career to apply with her. This sparked a little interest and by the summer of 1869 7 women applied and this time the University Court approved and the University of Edinburgh became the first British University to accept women. These women became known as the Edinburgh Seven, Britains first female medical students.
But this was not the end of it, as the females demonstrated that they were every equal of the male students, animosity towards them began to grow and this culminated in the Surgeons Hall Riot on the 18th November 1890 when the women arrived to sit an anatmoy exam and an angry mob turned up hurling verbal abuse as well as rotten food and mud at them. Under pressure from influential members of the Medical faculty the University was persuaded to refuse graduation to the women and referred the matter to the courts. The courts declared that the women should never have been granted entry initially so their degrees were withdrawn. This forced the women to attend universities across Europe who were already allowing women to graduate.
Sophia Jex-Blake earned her MD in 1877 from the University of Berne and 4 months later in Dublin she qualified as Licentiate of the King’s and Queen’s College of Physicians of Ireland (LKQCPI) meaning she could at last be registered with the General Medical Council, the third registered woman doctor in the country.
Having gained her qualifications Jex-Blake returned to Edinburgh in 1878 perhaps as a snub to the establishment and at 4 Manor Place set up the first medical practice run by a woman in Scotland. The property has a brass plaque fitted commemorating the fact.