As part of our international women’s day campaign, we visited the archives to delve through the rich history of George’s. Here we discovered the hidden stories of the first women to study at St George’s or, as they were commonly known at the time, the George’s Four.
Hetty Claremont, Mariam Bostock, Helen Ingleby and Elizabeth O’Flynn were the first women to study at what was then St George’s medical school, admitted to study for three months at St George’s for clinical skills training in 1915, which, at the time, was an extremely controversial decision, but due to the depleted numbers of male students and doctors the board decide to allow the women to enrol.
Yet shortly after being admitted, the board changed their decision and no longer wanted to accept the women to study medicine. In response, the Four wrote an impassioned letter to the dean arguing this decision and they were allowed to continue with their studies. They all went on to be pioneering women across clinical practice, research, and patient care.
Within a year of studying at St George’s Helen Ingleby became the first woman to qualify with the London Bachelor of Medicine Degree. After this Helen went on to work as the curator of the pathology museum, she also worked as a medical registrar at the hospital. In 1919 Helen’s next chapter began as she decided to move away from St George’s, she began working at Victoria Hospital for Children and taught as a lecturer at King’s College Hospital. She then went on to work at the Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia, spending the rest of her career in the city, eventually becoming a Professor and obtaining her Postgraduate MD in 1954. Helen returned to England to retire and died in 1973.
Elizabeth O’Flynn was an Irish pathologist, physician, surgeon, researcher and author. Elizabeth began studying at St George’s in 1915 alongside Mariam, Hetty and Helen and went on to graduate from St George’s in 1917. She continued working at George’s for just over as a year as War Assistant Curator of the Museum at St. George’s. After this she went on to become a House Physician, House Surgeon, and Clinical Assistant to the Venereal Diseases Department and eventually a Medical Registrar at George’s.
After this she went on to work at many hospitals as a Pathologist including the South London Hospital for Women, King’s College Hospital, Queen’s Hospital for Children and the National Hospital. Elizabeth was admitted to M.R.C.P in 1923 and sadly passed away in 1946.
Mariam Bostock was born in Canada in 1894 and began studying medicine at St George’s in 1915. After finishing her studies, Mariam carried out mission work in India with the Zenana Bible society, serving as a surgeon at the Duchess of Teck Hospital in Patma. In 1928 she married Victor Sherman, returning to Canada in 1936. Here Mariam became heavily involved with the Canadian Humanist movement, for which she received an award shortly before her death in 1975.
The final member of the St George’s Four was Hetty Claremont. Hetty was born in 1892 to a middle class family, of which several members were already in the medical profession. Hetty began studying at St George’s in 1915 and was awarded the John Hunter Gold Medal. She later held a number of appointments at St George’s hospital including Surgical Registrar, Resident Anaesthetist, House Surgeon, House Physician, Assistant Curator of the Museum, Casualty Officer and Clinical Assistant in the Venereal Diseases Department.
Hetty was appointed a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons at age 27 and later moved to Zurich, where she became a Voluntary Resident Assistant Surgeon at the University Clinic. She shared her knowledge widely across Europe, visiting clinics in Vienna, Budapest, Frankfurt and Madrid, later returning to England where she took on many further roles including Surgical Registrar to London Temperance Hospital, Surgeon to the Bermondsey Medical Mission Hospital and Clinical Assistant at the South London Hospital for Women. At the time of her death she was in private practice as a consulting surgeon at 31 Devonshire Place, London. She died of typhoid fever on March 27th, 1924.