Funtabulous International Women’s Day

I have the pleasure of co-authoring this Funtabulous quiz with Dr Colleen Taylor. Dr Taylor is the most recent recipient of the ACEM Buchanan Prize (Fellowship Gold Medal). Dr Taylor has kindly helped compile a list of pioneer female physicians from whom we can all take inspiration. Introducing the Funtabulous International Women’s Day Quiz for 2019.

Question 1

Who, in 1865, became the first female physician in the UK?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917)

Elizabeth Garrett was born in 1836 in Suffolk, England.  Although expectations at the time were for her to marry and become a proper English lady, she met with the feminist Emily Davies and Elizabeth Blackwell.

Initially her attempts to study at a number of English Medical had all been denied. She passed the examinations of the Society of Apothecaries in 1865 and thus became a doctor.  The society’s rules at the time did not specifically prohibit women from taking their examination, however these rules were changed after Dr Garret to prohibit other women entering the profession that way.  She established a dispensary for women in London in 1866 and was made a visiting physician to the East London Hospital in 1870.  

Dr Garret remained committed to her original goal of obtaining her medical degree and so taught herself french and studied at the University of Paris where she earned her degree.  Disappointingly the British Medical Register refused to recognise this qualification. In 1872 she found the New Hospital for Women in London, which was staffed exclusively by women.  Elizabeth Blackwell was appointed as the Professor of Gynaecology.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson continued to succeed despite the hurdles of the time.  She became the first female member of the British Medical Associated in 1873 and the female dean of British medical school in 1883. She paved the way for women’s medical education in Britain to the extent where in 1876 an act was passed that permitted women to enter the medical professions. 

She was also the first women to be elected to a school board and the first female mayor in Britain. 


Question 2

In a departure from the dogmatic Freudian views of the day which argued that instinctual and biological drives formed much on an individual’s personality (and personality disorders and neuroses), who initially most successfully argued against this theorising that environmental and social conditions played the dominant role?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Dr Karen Horney (1885-1952)

Dr Karen Horney (1885-1952)

Born Karen Danielsen in Germany, 1885, she graduated medicine in 1911 from the University of Berlin.  After a brief period of medical practice she entered the field of psychoanalysis.  Like most, Dr Horney adhered to most of the principle tenants of Freudian theory, however she was quickly began to disagree with Freud’s view of female psychology, which he treated as an offshoot of male psychology.  She adamantly rejected manifestations of male bias in Freudian theory and psychology, in particular she rejected the notion of penis envy which Freudian theory regarded as a stage in female psychosexual development.

Dr Horney argued at the source of much female psychiatric pathology was rooted in the same male-dominated culture that had produced Freudian theory.  She introduced the idea of Womb envy, suggesting that a male envy of woman’s primary role in creating and sustaining life led men to claim their superiority in other fields. 

Question 3

To whom do are these powerful utterances attributed?

Between the things girls aren’t supposed to know and the things children aren’t supposed to know, it is a wonder I know anything at all!

If society will not admit of a woman’s free development, then society must be remodeled.

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)

In 1849, Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from medical school in the United States; and the second female physician on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council (after Elizabeth Garrett Anderson)

Blackwell co-founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and campaigned for women’s rights and strong supporter of the anti-slavery movement.

My whole life is devoted unreservedly to the service of my sex. The study and practice of medicine is in my thought but one means to a great end…the true ennoblement of woman.

Blackwell 1869

Question 4

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, PhD, was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2008 for her discovery of what?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, along with Luc Montagnier discovered HIV. Initial virus production was identified in lymphocytes from patients with lymphadenopathy in early stages of AIDS, and in blood from patients with late stage disease.  They were able to characterise this retrovirus as the first known human lentivirus. Françoise and Luc also shared the award with Harald zur Hausen for his discovery that cervical cancer was caused by human papilloma virus.

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi had been involved in retrovirology since the early 1970s, however she was the first author of the 1983 publication that described the discovery of the virus that caused AIDS. 

To date she is author and co-author of 270 original publications, over 120 articles in book review and 250 communications in international congresses.


Question 5

When was the first female doctor registered in Australia?

Reveal the funtabulous answer


Dr Constance Stone (1856-1902) was the first woman registered Physician in Australia.  In a story akin to Dr Garrett Anderson above, Melbourne University did not admit women to study its medical course thus she left Australia in 1884. The University of Melbourne did change its rules in 1887 to allow women to study.  Constance’s sister, Clara Stone, and 6 other women had petitioned for the change and started medicine that year.  Clara and one other woman graduated in medicine from the university in 1891.

Constance herself graduated from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and later from the University of Trinity College in Toronto with first class honours.  Arguably her greatest achievement was the creation of the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital that was created to provide opportunities for poor women to be treated by other women and not male medical students.  It was opened in 1899, but Dr Stone was forced into sick leave shortly after and until her death three years later in 1902 from tuberculosis.


…and finally

Which of the following eponymous names are female?

  • A. Apgar
  • B. Sgarbossa
  • C. Strauss
  • D. Waldeyer

Reveal the funtabulous answer

A, B and C are pioneer female physicians with an eponymous affiliation…

A. Virginia Apgar (1909-1974) was an American anesthesiologist. Apgar score (1953) (…Backronym 1961)

B. Elena B. Sgarbossa is an Argentinian born American cardiologist. Sgarbossa Criteria (1996)

C. Lotte Strauss (1913–1985) was a German born, American practicing pathologist. Churg–Strauss syndrome (1951)

D was a male anatomist who vehemently disputed that women should study medicine….

D. Heinrich Wilhelm Gottfried Waldeyer-Hartz (1836-1921) was a German anatomist. Waldeyer tonsillar ring (1884).

In a speech to the Scientists’ and Physicians’ Convention in 1888, he spoke of the varying development of different brain lobes in men and women as a factor that made the latter unfit for medical study. He was a lifelong opponent of co-education, and although he gave way to women entering medicine, he refused to let them be educated in the same Hall as men.

..obstetrics, a long-time female domain, only flourished as a science when it came into the hands of men, and that the many women who came to power throughout history would testify against the view that women’s abilities were simply restrained by society…according to ‘recent scientific evidence’ the gyri of the male brain were more pronounced than those of female brains, leading to a larger cortical surface, the ‘substrate of our intellectual abilities’…

Waldeyer 1888 p31-40

Lina Morgenstern, a prominent representative of the German women’s movement, countered with:

Highly esteemed Professor! If I attempt to write a contradiction to individual points of your presentation concerning the medical study of women, this will occur from the following aspects: the significance of a presentation lies in the topic which is discussed, in the position which the lecturer occupies in the scientific and civilized world, and in the audience which is being spoken to. In all three directions, your presentation is of the utmost importance for the female movement and should not be underestimated. Especially at this time, as there is a mighty energetic movement in our fatherland, from various female circles, which is demanding female doctors for female and pediatric illnesses as a sanitary and moral necessity and therefore aiming for medical study of women in Germany, the lecture from a famous anatomist (…) seems to be like a declaration of war from the enemy camp: even more so, than the doctors who naturally listened to this speech with great approbation, who are the natural opponents of female study

Morgenstern L. Verlag der Deutschen Hausfrauen-Zeitung 1888

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Dr Mark Corden BSc, MBBS, FRACP. Paediatric Emergency Physician working in Northern Hospital, Melbourne. Loves medical history and trivia...and assumes everyone around him feels the same...| LinkedIn |

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