Lives of the fellows

Gladys Mary Wauchope

b.7 July 1889 d.16 May 1966
BSc St And(1917) MRCS LRCP(1921) MB BS Lond(1921) MD(1926) MRCP(1926) FRCP(1946)

Gladys Wauchope was born in Westminster. Her father, Edward Wauchope, was a tea merchant, residing at Little Goldings, and later Goldings Manor, Loughton, on the edge of Epping Forest. Her mother, née Mary Alice Wilson, was the daughter of Alfred Wilson, a city merchant, living at Sevenoaks. The Wauchopes were descendants of an ancient Scottish family occupying Niffrie in the Lowlands.

Her preparatory school was St. Katherine’s and later St. Leonard’s School, both at St. Andrews. Leaving school in 1907, she spent ten months in Lausanne at a ‘finishing school’, and thereafter lived at home until the First World War shattered the ordinary pattern of life. Though she had never contemplated medicine as a career, her experiences as a VAD orientated her when the call came for more doctors as a national necessity. This decision made, she returned to St. Andrews, studied the preclinical subjects and graduated (BSc) in 1917. After a further year devoted to anatomy and physiology she returned south and presented herself at the London Hospital Medical College, fortified with a letter from Dr. Robert Hutchison (later Sir Robert, and PRCP) who was a personal friend, and physician to the London Hospital.

Gladys Wauchope was the first of about 70 women students to be admitted then to ‘the London’ though, as a pioneer, she had been anticipated by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson who, in 1864, was allowed to attend the wards of the hospital for a few months; the opposition of students and certain of the staff led to her dismissal. History repeated itself after the First World War; the medical college closed its doors to the further entry of women students in the autumn of 1921. The dreary details of ill-feeling revolving round this decision need not be recited, but they are epitomised by the reaction of the residents when Gladys was appointed house physician to the firm of Hutchison and Rowlands in 1922; they collectively resigned. But when the Chairman, Lord Knutsford, let it be known that he was prepared to receive their resignations, the situation was reversed.

Going back to 1921, however, it should be noted that Gladys Wauchope qualified MRCS, LRCP, and also MB, BS, London. Following this she served as clinical assistant to Medical and Surgical Out-patients, and then as pathology assistant to the Department of Morbid Anatomy.

In 1923 she was District Medical Officer at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, but returned to the London Hospital in 1924 as Receiving Room Officer.

Later in 1924 she joined Dr. Florence Edmonds in private practice at Brighton and Hove. In 1926 she paved the way to consultant practice by graduating as MD, London, and also passed the MRCP examination. Thereupon she was appointed hon. Physician to the New Sussex Hospital at Brighton, and served in this capacity until 1948. Herself a diabetic since 1926, she acted as hon. Physician to the Diabetic Clinics at the New Sussex Hospital and the Royal Sussex County Hospital, the former of which she initiated in 1934.

Her election as FRCP in 1946, the eighth woman to achieve this status, gave her immense pleasure, and she became a part-time consultant in the National Health Service until her retirement in 1954.

She wrote The Story of a Woman Physician (1963) published by John Wright, Bristol, which includes further details of the career of a woman characterised by a remarkable tenacity of purpose, courage and steadfastness. Her innate capacity for the career of her ultimate choice was signified by the apparent ease with which she resumed academic work after the lapse of nine years.

Her recreations were essentially outdoor: swimming, walking and travelling. I recall that, ‘on the House’, she would take the night train to the Lake District for a week-end walking on the fells. Her last years of invalidism and immobility were most courageously borne.

Dorothy S Russell

[Brit.med.J., 1966, 1, 1365, 1607; Lancet, 1966, 1, 1221; Times, 21 May 1966]

(Volume VI, page 452)

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