Dr Marion Gilchrist

(5 February 1864 – 7 September 1952)

Marion Gilchrist will feature in the March of Women on 7th March 2015, a procession of women from Glasgow and beyond spilling out of Glasgow Women’s Library onto the streets of Bridgeton to celebrate the achievements of women past and present.

Marion Gilchrist was the first female graduate of the University of Glasgow; the first woman to qualify in medicine from a Scottish university; and a leading activist in the Women's suffrage Movement in Scotland.

Gilchrist was born at Bothwell Park farm, to Margaret and William Gilchrist, a prosperous farmer, and was the younger sister of the Scottish agriculturalist, Douglas Alston Gilchrist. Educated at Bothwell Primary School, Gilchrist (as had her brother before her) entered Hamilton Academy, the prestigious fee-paying school in nearby Hamilton, South Lanarkshire. In 1887 Gilchrist matriculated at Queen Margaret College, University of Glasgow, as an arts student and having begun the examinations while at Queen Margaret College, she attained LLA, awarded by the University of Saint Andrews in 1890, in which year she enrolled at the new Queen Margaret College Medical School. In July 1894 Gilchrist was to become the first woman to graduate from Glasgow University and the first woman to qualify in medicine at a Scottish university, graduating MB and CM.

At university Gilchrist was Vice-President of the Queen Margaret College Student Union; Vice-President of the Literary and Debating Society; Convener of the Queen Margaret College Committee of the Glasgow University Liberal Club, and on 22 January 1894 was elected President of the Women Students' Representative Council at its first meeting, Queen Margaret College.

After graduation Gilchrist entered general practice, and following the death of her father in 1903 was able to set up her own practice at 5 Buckingham Terrace, Glasgow, remaining at that address for the rest of her life.

Specialising in ophthalmology, Gilchrist was appointed Assistant Surgeon for Diseases of the Eye at the Glasgow Victoria Infirmary, a post she was to hold from 1914 to 1930, and in 1927 she was also appointed an ophthalmic surgeon at Redlands Hospital for Women, Glasgow. Gilchrist also gave of her time on a voluntary basis as physician (1903–11) to Queen Margaret College Settlement's Invalid Children's School.

Gilchrist was one of the founding members of the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women's Suffrage (1902), which she left in 1907 to join the Women's Social and Political Union and the Women's Freedom League. In 1922 she was elected President of the Glasgow and West Scotland Association of the Medical Women's Federation; becoming also a leading member of the British Medical Association (and the first woman chairman of its Glasgow division), and a trustee of the Muirhead Trust.

The Marion Gilchrist Prize was established in 1952 from Marion Gilchrist's bequest and is awarded annually by the University of Glasgow to "the most distinguished woman graduate in Medicine of the year."

The Gilchrist Window (1936) in the north transept of the Parish Church in her birthplace of Bothwell was created by Douglas Strachan from funds gifted by Gilchrist. The inscription below the window reads, "To the Glory of God. Erected by Gilchrist in memory of her father William Gilchrist and her mother Margaret Williamson, her brothers, John William and Douglas, and her sister Agnes."

Gilchrist died on 7 September 1952.

In 2012, on the 60th anniversary of her death, an exhibition was set up at Bothwell Library to honour her achievements.

To make your own nomination download the nomination form here