my contributions to round 18 of the popular ABC Wednesday meme.
She was born in Naini Tal, India, in 1864, the daughter of John Inglis who worked in the Indian Civil Service and she was fortunate that her parents were enlightened enough to believe that an education was just as important for their daughter as for their son.
The family returned to Scotland where Inglis enjoyed a private education and enrolled at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women which opened in 1887. But she fell out with the school’s founder, Dr Sophia Jex-Blake, and set up her own rival medical college with the backing of her father before completing her training under Sir William Macewen at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
In 1892, she qualified for both the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Edinburgh, and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Her particular interest was the medical care of women and the poor standards that existed at that time, and she secured a post at the pioneering New Hospital for Women in London, and later at the Rotunda in Dublin, a leading maternity hospital.
Inglis returned to Edinburgh and set up practice with a fellow former student and opened a maternity hospital for poor women alongside a midwifery centre, which was a forerunner of the future Elsie Inglis Memorial Hospital.
She would often waive her medical fees owed to her and would pay for her patients to recuperate by the sea. Her dissatisfaction with the standard of medical care for women led to her becoming politically active and she played a leading role in the early days of women’s suffrage in Scotland.
It was through her political activities that brought Inglis fame during the First World War when she was instrumental in setting up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service Committee, an organisation funded by the women’s suffrage movement with the express aim of providing all female staffed relief hospitals.
Typical of attitudes at that time, her offer of a fully-qualified medical team was turned down by the Royal Army Medical Corps. The War Office told Inglis: ‘My good lady, go home and sit still,’ but instead it was the French who adopted her plan and within three months of the outbreak of war she had established the Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit at the Abbaye de Royaumont.
Inglis arranged for women’s units to be sent to Serbia, Salonika, Romania, Malta and Corsica in 1915 and to Russia the following year. Inglis herself served in Serbia where she was responsible for improving hygiene, so reducing the ravages of typhus and other epidemics, and she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of the White Eagle by the Crown Prince of Serbia.
Inglis was captured in 1915, but was released after diplomatic pressure by the United States. She then headed a team sent to Odessa in Russia in 1916, but she was forced to return a year later as she was suffering from cancer.She died on the day she arrived, at the Station Hotel, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
Her funeral took place at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, an ‘occasion of an impressive public tribute’ and there was a separate memorial service at St Margaret’s Church in Westminster. Winston Churchill said of Inglis and her nurses ‘they will shine in history’, words found on the in the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry above.