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British Women Surgeons and their Patients, 1860–1918
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When women agitated to join the medical profession in Britain during the 1860s, the practice of surgery proved both a help (women were neat, patient and used to needlework) and a hindrance (surgery was brutal, bloody and distinctly unfeminine). In this major new study, Claire Brock examines the cultural, social and self-representation of the woman surgeon from the second half of the nineteenth century until the end of the Great War. Drawing on a rich archive of British hospital records, she investigates precisely what surgery women performed and how these procedures affected their personal and professional reputation, as well as the reactions of their patients to these new phenomena. Essential reading for those interested in the history of medicine, British Women Surgeons and their Patients, 1860–1918 provides wide-ranging new perspectives on patient narratives and women's participation in surgery between 1860 and 1918. This title is also available as Open Access.


‘This book reconstructs the experience of both women surgeons as well as women patients - a unique combination of perspectives that is highly relevant for the history of surgery, but also for present day discussions.'

Thomas Schlich - McGill University, Montréal

'Claire Brock provides a fascinating and pioneering study of early women surgeons and their intersections with the changing practice of surgery. This is an important addition to the literature on women doctors, and a must read for all those interested in women’s complex relationships with medicine.'

Hilary Marland - University of Warwick

‘With the entry of women into Victorian surgery in Britain, gender roles and occupational identities were reshaped. In this important work Claire Brock shows how women variously adopted the masculine culture of nineteenth-century surgeons and feminised a traditional male practice. Sensitivity to nuance is the key to what was happening here and Brock displays it in abundance.’

Christopher Lawrence - Emeritus Professor of the History of Medicine, University College London

'… what an impressive story Brock has to tell. It is important to know what these early women surgeons did and the obstacles they overcame. I was especially taken by Brock’s portrait of the eagerness of these women to cut open bodies, to try to solve the problems that major surgery promised to solve.'

Marjorie Levine-Clark Source: The American Historical Review

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Full book PDF
  • British Women Surgeons and their Patients, 1860–1918
    pp i-ii
  • British Women Surgeons and their Patients, 1860–1918 - Title page
    pp iii-iii
  • Copyright page
    pp iv-iv
  • Contents
    pp v-v
  • Figures and Table
    pp vi-vii
  • Illustrations
    pp viii-viii
  • Acknowledgements
    pp ix-x
  • Introduction: Disapproval, Curiosity, Amusement, Obstinate Hostility?
    pp 1-25
  • Women and Surgery, 1860–1918
  • 1 - From Controversy to Consolidation: Surgery at the New Hospital for Women, 1872–1902
    pp 26-68
  • 2 - The Experiences of Female Surgical Patients at the Royal Free Hospital, 1903–1913
    pp 69-127
  • 3 - Women Surgeons and the Treatment of Malignant Disease
    pp 128-180
  • 4 - Inside the Theatre of War
    pp 181-233
  • 5 - Operating on the Home Front, 1914–1918
    pp 234-285
  • Conclusion
    pp 286-288
  • Bibliography
    pp 289-296
  • Index
    pp 297-305
Autograph Letter Collection, Women's Library, London School of Economics.
Records of Birmingham and Midland Hospital for Women, Birmingham City Archives, Library of Birmingham.
Bruntsfield Hospital and Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital Archives, Lothian Health Services Archive, Edinburgh University Library.
Records of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital (formerly New Hospital for Women), London Metropolitan Archives.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Letters and Papers, Ipswich Record Office, Suffolk.
Records of Hampstead General Hospital, Royal Free London, NHS Foundation Trust, London Metropolitan Archives.
Liddle Collection, Brotherton Library, Leeds.
Records of London (Royal Free Hospital) School of Medicine for Women, London Metropolitan Archives.
Records of Royal Free Hospital, Royal Free London, NHS Foundation Trust, London Metropolitan Archives.
Scottish Women's Hospitals Collection, Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
Records of South London Hospital for Women and Children, London Metropolitan Archives.
  • Archives of the Roentgen Ray

  • Blackwood's Magazine

  • British Journal of Radiology

  • British Journal of Surgery (BJS)

  • British Medical Journal (BMJ)

  • Common Cause

  • Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

  • Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Empire (JOGBE)

  • Lancet

  • London (Royal Free Hospital) School of Medicine for Women Magazine (L(RFH)SMWM)

  • Medical Record: A Weekly Journal of Medicine and Surgery

  • Medico-Chirurgical Transactions

  • Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (PRSM)

  • Punch

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