The scene was disgraceful, that afternoon in Edinburgh. It was the newspapers that stoked public feeling up to such heights but it seemed everyone had an opinion on the matter. Most people held the same view and it was only the Edinburgh Seven, a few of their supporters and even fewer of their teachers who held the contrary view.
The public outcry was ‘Would you want a doctor like that?’
Should they be eligible to study medicine? Should they be afforded the opportunity of clinical practice experience? Should they even be permitted to undertake degrees of any kind?
The day after a particularly heated round of discussions in the papers, the Seven were heading across the quad to a pathological examination in the mortuary. The medical student body had amassed there and the courage of the Seven to even pass through the group was noteworthy. There were murmurings then an occasional shout. “You’re not welcome here,” rang around the walls.
Next there was pushing, gentle at first but within a minute, more vulgar. One student was knocked to the floor by the most vocal group, just before he had made it to the safety of the pathology room. A second was tripped up and fell to the floor, tearing a hole in his trouser knee. Papers and vegetable peelings were hurled from the rear of the crowd but missed all of them. The pair bringing up the rear of the Seven suffered the greatest indignity. Bluntly, they received sputum plain in the face.
Isabella Mansfield then called for quiet and handed her own monogrammed kerchief to the gentlemen. “Are we farmyard animals or are we ladies?” she asked. “We do not deserve to win this cause if we must fit in such an abhorrent way. Ladies, let them pass. We shall continue our challenge on moral and ethical ground, not resort to common thuggery.”
The Seven young men passed into the pathology rooms with little more than whispers sounding from the crowd. Once they were inside, Isabella addressed us once more.
“Ladies, we will be victorious but we shall maintain the higher ground. These men may be here now but fear not, I see no more joining them in future. Who amongst you and your families would accept treatment from a male doctor? It’s a preposterous thought. They will not prevail.”
Inspiration: Women entering medical school for the first time