Elsie Inglis

Medical reformer & advocate for women’s rights


Elsie Inglis was an innovative Scottish doctor and suffragist. She was born in the hill station town of Naini Tal, India. After a private education, Elsie decided to study medicine in the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women. She qualified at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Edinburgh, and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1892.

Elsie obtained a post at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson's pioneering New Hospital for Women in London, and then at the Rotunda in Dublin, a leading maternity hospital.

Appalled by the general standard of care and lack of specialisation in the needs of female patients she returned to Edinburgh in 1894 where she set up a medical practice with Jessie MacGregor and also opened a maternity hospital (The Hospice) for poor women alongside a midwifery resource centre, a forerunner of the Elsie Inglis Memorial Hospital.

Elsie was a philanthropist who often waived the fees owed to her and would pay for her patients to recuperate by the sea-side.

Despite her early achievements it was her efforts during World War One that brought her fame. 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 for the Allied war effort. The organisation sent teams to France, Serbia and Russia. Elsie went with the teams sent to Serbia where she improved hygiene standards reducing diseases such as typhus and other epidemics that had been raging there. In 1915 she was captured and repatriated but upon reaching home she began organising funds for a Scottish Women's Hospital team in Russia. She headed the team when it left for Odessa, Russia in 1916 but was forced to return to the UK due to illness.  She died on 26 November 1917, the day after she arrived back at Newcastle upon Tyne.

Elsie Inglis was commemorated on a new series of banknotes issued by the Clydesdale Bank in 2009 and her image appeared on the new issue of £50 notes.

Interesting facts

  • Elsie Inglis was born in the hill station town of Naini Tal, India.
  • Elsie Inglis appeared on the 2009 Clydesdale bank £50 note.


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