HC Deb 05 July 1876 vol 230 cc996-1020

Order for Second Beading read.


in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, it was intended as an exceptional remedy for an exceptional grievance which had been inflicted upon a class of persons who were especially deserving of the consideration of the House. A few ladies aspiring to get beyond the narrow routine of employment hitherto appropriated to their sex, had studied medicine and surgery with the hope of alleviating suffering and healing diseases, and of earning their own livelihood by the exercise of an honourable profession, but their persevering endeavours had been baffled by the simple fact that they were women; and though they got an abundance of patients, they were pertinaciously refused admission to the register, which conferred the legal title to practise. The necessity for this Bill arose from the fact that the existing law, as it was administered, did not deal fairly or justly with both sexes, and that the opportunities given by the medical corporations to enter the Medical Profession were restricted to men and denied to women. This was not the intention of the Legislature. The Act of 1858 spoke generally of "persons," and did not make any exclusion of female persons as compared with males. As he had framed and introduced the Medical Act, he could assert with authority that to no one who was concerned in the passing of that Act did it occur that there would be any exclusion of women from its benefits. He need not, however, dwell upon that, because, under the terms and operation of the Act, women had reached the register. The law required that the Medical Council should superintend the registration of all persons of the proper qualification, and it allowed at the first registration that those who had degrees from foreign Universities, and who had been practising previously to the passing of the Act, should have the right of being registered. Upon the passing of that Act, a lady who had obtained a degree of Doctor of Medicine from a University in America was registered, and her name was still upon the register. Subsequently another lady who had passed the examination of the Apothecaries' Company were also placed on the register. But although the Statute permited the registration of women, the conditions imposed by the Medical Corporations and by the Universities prevented them from being admitted to the register. Very soon after the Act was passed one lady proceeded to go through those studies which the Apothecaries' Society required previous to examination, and having made herself qualified, she applied for leave to be examined. The authorities were unwilling to admit her, but when they consulted their law officers they found that they had no power to refuse. Accordingly she was allowed to go before the examiners. She passed satisfactorily, and was now registered. But the authorities were so dissatisfied at finding that one of the other sex had taken advantage of their instruction and examination that they altered their rules so as to make it impossible for any woman to pass an examination again. They declared that henceforth anyone who had received an education, however good or complete, part of which had been given privately—as had been the case with the lady he had referred to—should not be allowed to be examined, thus taking the precaution that no woman should be admitted to the lectures which after that were necessary to make it competent for them to pass. Then the ladies who wished to enter the profession, finding the door of the Apothecaries' Society closed against them, tried to pass through the University of Edinburgh. There were in that University some gentlemen of liberal feeling, who hailed with satisfaction this desire on the part of the ladies to devote themselves to this useful Profession, and to obtain the advantages of University education. There were also in that University persons of less toleration, who looked with more prejudice upon the association of women with men in an honourable Profession. At the beginning, when the request of the five ladies was made, after some discussion, all the Governing Bodies of the University, including the Chancellor, agreed upon admitting them to be matriculated and to commence their studies. After they had gone through about half the course, their opponents created difficulties which prevented them from completing their course of instruction. These ladies having been matriculated in the full expectation that they would be allowed to go through their course, and being refused, they were forced to apply to the Court of Session to enforce their contract. There they obtained a decision in their favour. The matter was afterwards carried by appeal to a higher Court, and decided against them by a bare majority of Judges, those of the highest position and reputation being in the minority. If the University had been willing to receive female students for instruction and examination, it would have been easy for them to have obtained such a change in their charters as would have enabled them to receive women; the majority of medical men in the University, however, were adverse to them; and the doors of the Scotch University were shut against the admission of ladies. But the ladies were persevering, and the next attempt was to establish a hospital in London in which female patients were cured by female practitioners, and a school of medicine. These were still in operation, and so far as they went they had been successful. Patients and students were plentiful; but the prejudices of the Profession had prevented either the school of medicine or the hospital from fulfilling the requirements for registration, and from leading to admission to the Profession. The institutions were not recognized; therefore any instruction that was obtained in the wards of the hospital and in the school, however useful it might be, would not help them to wards obtaining certificates. The ladies then discovered that by charter the College of Surgeons in London were bound to examine candidates in midwifery; and the Medical Act provided that single qualification was sufficient for registration. Three ladies who had been educated in Edinburgh applied for examination, and obtained the assent of the Governing Body of the College of Surgeons. At last the aspirations of these persevering and laborious women seemed to be realized, and the legal right to practise within their grasp, but their opponents were up to the critical occasion, and baffled both law and equity by carrying out the policy of trade unionism to the extreme of a strike. When the time of examination arrived, no examiners were to be found. The three medical examiners had resigned, and no one in the Profession would accept the office. This ingenious stroke of policy, so discreditable to the surgeons of England, had succeeded in withholding from these learned ladies their legal rights, and nothing but a mandamus from a Court of Law could give them redress. They had tried every available opening, and taken every chance. They had knocked at the doors of admission to the Profession, but found all of them closed against them, some of them slammed in their faces. They had suffered persecution, and there seemed to be no hopes of their obtaining what they wanted. This being the case, they had been obliged to look outside their own country. They had to look across the Channel to the Continent, and they found a very different treatment of female students. Although all these Bodies who represented the Medical Profession in England had determined in one way or another to prevent ladies from being educated in medicine or to prevent them from obtaining licences to practise, they found a more generous and tolerant feeling in other countries. In France they found that in the great University of Paris, which stood high among the Universities of the Continent, there was every willingness to enable women to study and take degrees. At this moment, out of about 20 lady students in the University of Paris, there were 12 who were English, Scotch, or Irishwomen. Several of the ladies who had been educated at that University had obtained degrees with honours, and had received permission to practice. In Germany effective provision was made for the higher education of women. The University of Vienna admitted students of both sexes. At the University of Leipsic there were many female students. In Switzerland the ladies found no difficulty in obtaining education and in passing examinations. At the University of Zurich there were 20 female students, and some were practising in England as doctors of medicine. In America the University of Michigan was open to women. Even Russia, the youngest country of Europe in regard to civilization, had got beyond England in one of the great marks of civilization, generous consideration for women. In St. Petersburg there was a large College for Russian women to study medicine. It originated in the demand of Asiatic subjects of the Czar to have female doctors sent to them, because it was not in accordance with the habits of Orientals that male doctors should prescribe for women by means of personal visits. They had now in England four doctors of medicine from foreign Universities who were practising in London and Bristol. It was not necessary in a debate of this sort to enter into physiological questions, as to whether women were or were not by nature fitted to practice medicine—whether or not they had a sufficient proportion of brain or were physically capable of study—there was the fact, they had succeeded in foreign Universities, had gained honours and diplomas, had been admitted to practice. Neither need they discuss whether female doctors could get patients or not, because they had the fact before them that they had patients. In the hospital in Marylebone Road, to which he had already called attention, there were as many patients as the female doctors there could prescribe for. At a dispensary in Bristol there were 14,000 attendances of women and children in a year, although they had to pay a fee for advice. The number of patients was on the increase, and so far as the experience of the dispensary went, it showed that a real want was supplied by the female practitioners, and that their services were much valued. It seemed to him to be a great hardship that whilst there were female doctors of medicine practising in this country—proved to be qualified and experienced—they should by the operation of the law be unable to exercise their functions legally. This state of things ought to be remedied, and the present Bill proposed this simple course—that where women could show by diploma they had received from foreign Universities that they were perfectly qualified to practise medicine, they should be allowed to do so. One great objection made to this was that if they admitted women with foreign degrees to practise, then they must admit men under the same conditions. Well, that argument might come fairly from the mouths of the advocates of female suffrage; but he could not see the justice or consistency of calling for equality when it was to inflict injury on women, and totally disregard it when it was to operate in their favour. When a woman desired to be allowed to study the Profession and to pass an examination it was said—"There is no equality at all between men and women, and women are not to have the advantages which are given to men by the corporations or Universities." He need hardly point out to the House the difficulties to which ladies were exposed who went to foreign countries to study, the residence in strange places, with foreign habits, away from their natural protectors, and seeking instruction delivered in foreign tongues. One argument offered against his Bill was that it would be wrong to allow the qualification given by the foreign Universities to have force in England, because the Medical Council, who were to be the judges of qualification, could not control or influence these Universities. That would be a valid objection, he thought, if the Bill said that degrees of all Universities were to be held valid by the Medical Council; but in the measure he had only selected a small number of Universities of such acknowledged reputation that no one in the Medical Council or anywhere else could object to a degree they might confer as not being equally good with any degree from a University in the United Kingdom. But if it could be supposed possible that a slur or doubt should be thrown on the University of Paris or Vienna, Berne or Zurich, or there was reason to think their teaching or examination was not efficient or properly conducted, it would be easy to leave them out of the Schedules. But it was a mere abstract objection. The argument which really prevailed in the minds of those who opposed the Bill was the fear of the competition which would be introduced if females were admitted into the Profession. But he thought the fear on that point was exaggerated. The number of medical practitioners was diminishing; and if women were admitted, a larger number of persons would seek medical advice than at present. There were a great number of women—especially young women—who did not have medical advice at present from feelings of delicacy, because they would not go to men for advice. Then there was a large field of work open to women in India. That country would furnish employment for more women than were likely to pass any examination under existing laws. There were probably 50,000,000 of Native women in India, Mahommedan and Hindoo, who would never allow a man to enter their apartment to prescribe for any ailment. The Indian Government had so strongly felt the importance of this matter that an attempt had been made in Madras and elsewhere to bring up a body of Native young women to the Medical Profession. They were trying to get female Professors to assist in teaching at schools of medicine. It would be a moral as well as medical advantage to Her Majesty's subjects in India that the Bill should be passed, for it would assist the Government in civilizing, enlightening, and Christianizing the Native women to have a large body of medical women, trained in England, to go forth to India and undertake that great work. If the opportunity they desired was given them, numbers of women would avail themselves of it. He proposed the Bill as a simple mode of meeting an obvious difficulty, and also of justice towards those who were practising without being enrolled. At present they were under a disadvantage. Any certificates they might give were not legal, and they were not acknowledged by medical practitioners—the ladies who practised were classed in the eye of the law as quacks, and those who had shown such intelligence by their study were classed, so far as the law was concerned, with the most ignorant impostors who had no knowledge or skill, except in the way of practising upon the credulity of simple-minded persons. He had not forgotten the Parliamentary Paper which was laid upon the Table of the House last year, in which the Medical Council dealt with this subject. That Council, which was composed of the representatives of the different branches of the Profession, had taken a wider view of the matter than the bulk of the medical men themselves. They said—"We cannot deny the justice and propriety of admitting women on the register if they are qualified." The Council seemed very adverse to interfering in any way with the existing examination or with licensing bodies; and assuming that it was possible to admit ladies without such interference, they turned their attention to the mode in which the difficulty could be got over. They proposed that there should be a new examination, distinct from any of those at present in existence, and that there should be a new place on the register to receive the people who were to be examined by the new examining body. That was a good suggestion so far as it went. The value of it was that it was an admission from a very high authority that women ought to be admitted. As to the form that suggestion should take in legislation, they could decide the matter when the Bill came on, if the Government were to introduce a measure on the subject. At present, however, it was merely a suggestion. Another method was proposed in a Bill before the House for enabling the Examining Bodies to treat their charters and statutes as not being limited to one sex, but as applying to both. This also was good as far as it went, the weak part of it being that it was only an enabling Act, and did not compel anyone to act upon it. After the experience they had had of the way in which the medical bodies had treated women candidates, he was afraid that the Bill, if passed, would not have the effect of securing the objects which its promoters desired. The desire of the women was to be useful in the world, and to earn their living in an honourable way, and this was a wish which ought to be gratified. The manner in which they had been treated showed a return of a little of the old barbarous usages of this country, by which women were prevented from earning their living in ways that put them into competition with men. It reminded one of the painting of china, in which the male operatives refused to allow the women to have the rests for their elbows that were used by the men. He trusted Parliament would now be able to see its way to placing the women on a better and more liberal and more generous footing, and that they would remove what he ventured to think was a discredit to the Medical Profession, in their having, from a feeling of selfish prejudice, declined to admit women to the enjoyment of their own advantages. He did not deny that there would be many difficulties in the way, and that they would have to make special arrangements for teaching by separate classes; but he contended that at present there was no attempt made to get over the difficulties, and that there had been a silent, dogged, obtuse refusal on the part of the medical men in the country to allow women to enter the Profession of Medicine. The general attitude taken by the Medical Profession had been so hostile and so unsympathizing that he should be glad for their own sakes that they should be no longer open to the stigma. He trusted the Bill would be allowed to pass its second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Cowper-Temple.)


in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time on that day three months, said, in doing this he could not help thinking that the arguments used (if he might venture to say so) were those altogether of an advocate anxious—not to say determined—to make out his case, rather than those which would be used to put a full and general view of the whole subject before the House. He opposed the Bill, because it sought to treat men and women in England entirely differently. They had been told that certain foreign Universities admitted women to their studentships, and even possibly to their degrees; but they had not been reminded of the fact that there was no analogy whatever between the student life of foreign countries, and that of England; neither had they been instructed as to whether or not such degrees in the countries where they were obtained, did or did not convey with them, ipso facto, a license to practice. The House had been told, however, that if women brought degrees from certain foreign Universities they ought to be permitted to practice medicine in this country. But, he asked, why should we recognize as practitioners persons because they were women, when we would not countenance them in the same circumstances when they were men? No one of the Medical Licensing Bodies would be willing to admit men without going through the prescribed curriculum of some or other of the ordinary institutions for the purpose of due qualification. Besides, were hon. Members prepared to admit ladies to all the classes open to students at Oxford or Cambridge? If women were admitted to practice under the Schedule of this Bill the consequence might, and in all probability would, be that we should have a still greater number of unqualified men, under the guise of assistants, practising in their names; and even now we had far too many of such people following the Profession in that way. The ideas embodied in this Bill were, in his humble opinion, altogether opposed to our English notions of propriety. He was extremely sorry to find that, by some means or other, three or four ladies had already got their names put upon the Medical Register, but he sincerely hoped that the number would never be increased. The 3rd clause of the Bill, which had been carefully kept out of view, proposed that it should be lawful for the Medical Council, from time to time, to add other foreign or colonial Universities to the Schedule. Perhaps it was not very likely to take any such, step—at all events, without due consideration; but if, by any accident, some soi-disant American University—and if his remembrance served him rightly, there had been some such so-called Institution, though he believed it was an illegitimate one, he thought in Philadelphia, which had been selling its "degrees," and that without either presentation, examination, or even guarantee—should do so, what then? Had hon. Members never heard too, or even seen, advertisements in English newspapers, offering to "procure degrees in absentiâ?" Was the English Medical Register, or the Profession itself, to be swamped by any such proceedings as those? If we were once to allow women to slip into the Profession by a side door, thus, as it were, legally opened to them, every branch of the public service would be in danger of being overflowed with candidates for office. Again, was the proposer of this measure ready to admit lady practitioners into the Army, the Navy, the Mercantile Marine, or the Civil Service? This was the only logical sequence to which, if so, we could be expected to arrive. We heard something a short time ago about the discipline of a brig, then under the command of a gallant Admiral. It would be well for the House to consider whether the gallant Gentleman would have been prepared to view a lady-doctor sent officially on board his ship with either quietude or favour. It was quite impossible to place either the same restraint or the same responsibility upon women as upon men. It had been said that there was an opening for a class of work in which ladies might be engaged in India or elsewhere, and that women might be admitted as doctors within precincts where men were not allowed to go. He should have had, perhaps, less objection to the Bill, if it had proposed to meet such a requirement: but he opposed the present measure because it would permit women to practice as physicians or surgeons not only in Great Britain, but in all the colonies. It had been stated that that Bill was permissive, but looking to its clauses and provisions it seemed to be absolutely compulsory, in so far as it left no option, but to admit such "graduates" on to the register, thus granting them a licence to practice. It would admit women to the whole curriculum of hospital practice, and the entire clinical lectures at which medical students were in the habit of attending. He held that this might lead to no good, either morally, or in any other respect. A woman might, no doubt, safely administer a camomile draught, or a dose of salts and senna, but as for performing a surgical operation upon him, for instance, he would almost as soon allow a lady to cut off his head as permit her to amputate his leg. He dissented altogether from the idea that there was any cruelty to the sex in preventing young women from entering upon those studies side by side, as it were, with young men. There was no such thing as cruelty in that. Did the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cowper-Temple) think that any similar state of things could be applied to another profession—that to which he (Mr. Wheelhouse) belonged? Yet, in some sort, it might affect the legal calling. In certain inquiries of a delicate character, in which lawyers were occasionally engaged, he very much doubted whether it would be actually possible to administer an effective cross-examination to a lady-doctor in the witness-box. The difficulty was bad enough in the case of a man often, but it would be immensely greater in the case of a woman. He had no sympathy whatever with that class of ladies who were continually seeking to usurp, as far as possible, all the duties of men. This was, in truth, a question of domestic life, and of keeping woman in that high place where he, for one, hoped and trusted she would ever remain. It was not consonant with English ideas, and all we value most in domestic life, that women should go to the bedsides of all sorts of people as physicians and surgeons. It was not any question of professional jealousy, nor could his objection arise from any fear of competition. The fear that really did exist was on behalf of the welfare of the general community, and he trusted that the House would not listen to, or sanction, any such innovation as the one now proposed, and he would conclude by moving the rejection of the Bill.


in seconding the Amendment, said, that those who opposed the admission of women to the Medical Profession were accused of doing so either from professional jealousy, or from sentimental motives. But he thought that the House would not cast a stigma on a great Profession, and on the leading men of that Profession who formed the qualifying Board, by holding them actuated by the mere selfish policy of a trades union. Then those who opposed it were accused of a sentimental objection. He had been engaged for some time in teaching that branch of medicine where this objection would be strongest—anatomy—and he had witnessed young ladies in the pursuit of that study. He must state, from what he saw, his original objection to submit young girls to this ordeal was greatly strengthened. Even young men were subject to a severe moral trial; and he thought if hon. Members really knew the state of things they would be very slow to subject young girls to such an ordeal. There was a difficulty which rendered the allowing of qualifying Boards to confer diplomas—a very serious objection. It was acknowledged by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House that the whole system of medical qualification and registration was at present in a very unsatisfactory condition. It was well known that the possession of a diploma and a registration was no real guarantee of capacity. As the House was well aware there were at present 19 qualifying Bodies in this country, competing with one another for the granting of degrees and diplomas. All these Bodies were entitled to have their qualifications registered, and thus got the Government stamp upon them. Unfortunately several of these Bodies depended largely on the moneys they received for the passing of candidates. Hence had arisen between some a very unworthy competition, and we had some of them lowering the proper standard in order to win to their examinations numbers of candidates. This system had proceeded so far that it was not an infrequent occurrence for candidates who were rejected by one Board for utter incompetence to go almost immediately to another Board and get qualified, become registered, and thus be thrown on the public as State-qualified practitioners. He had called the attention of the House on a previous occasion to the subject, and the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council had acknowledged that it was a bad state of things, and much wanted remedying. Now, it was proposed to make the great change of allowing any of these qualifying Bodies to admit women to their qualifications. Surely, that was only greatly increasing the temptation, which had already been too frequently yielded to, for these institutions to lower the standard of efficiency, and send out to the country persons really unfit to undertake medical practice. What guarantee was there that, if any of these institutions were pressed for funds they would not flood the country with a large number of ill-educated and ill-qualified women? Before taking such a great step as the admission of women to the Medical Profession he thought they ought first of all to settle the grave state of things that existed as to proper medical qualification. He concluded by once more urging the very serious objections to the admission of young girls to the study of medicine, an objection which he believed the more it was looked into the more powerful it would prove, and the more fatal to such measures as those which they were now asked to pass.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Mr. Wheelhouse.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, he wished briefly to state why he should vote for the Bill. He would not attempt to go into the larger question which had been so ably handled on both sides of the House, but would content himself with referring to the present state of our population. Our death-rate had remained stationary for the last 30 or 40 years; while, in the same periods, there had been a falling off in the supply of medical men, on whom we must mainly depend for having that death-rate lessened. Independently of that, what had been the effect of recent legislation? No man was allowed to die and be buried quietly as a gentleman ought to be without a certificate from a duly-qualified medical man, to the effect that that ugly customer Death had done his work efficiently, and that he had had nobody to help him except some duly-qualified practitioner. As it was an imperious necessity that we should die and be buried, it was of some consequence that we should not be short of the number of those who were alone able to help the survivors as well as the departed. He had no accurate means of judging except from the Census; but what did the Census say on this matter? He found that in 1841 the number of physicians was 1,112 and the number of surgeons and apothecaries 14,767, making a total of about 15,800. The population at the period was 16,000,000 odd. But according to the Census of 1871 the total number of practitioners was only 14,600, although the population had increased to nearly 23,000,000. That, in his judgment, could not be regarded as a satisfactory state of things. Moreover, it should be remembered that our enormous colonial Empire absorbed a vast number of qualified practitioners who otherwise would remain at home. That was shortly the reason why, without going into the petticoat argument, he should vote for the Bill, for he believed it might do some good in promoting the health of the people, and was thus a step in the right direction, although it would not, he was afraid, open the door to a very large number of female candidates.


in supporting the Bill, said, he thought there had been great exaggeration on both sides. For himself, he could see no danger whatever in admitting women to the study and practice of the Medical Profession. To his belief under no circumstances could females come into general rivalry with male practitioners; but if there was a feeling in society that the Medical Profession should be open to women, and there was from another point of view a large or even a small number of persons who objected to doctors on moral or sentimental grounds, this was a sufficient reason why Parliament should sanction the principle of the Bill. There was, undoubtedly, a great objection by medical students to admit women to study surgery with them; but those objections could be obviated by the arrangement of separate schools. It had been said that ladies might be admitted to take medical degrees with a view to their attending cases of their own sex, and to that he could not see any objection; but it did not seem to him that there would be any great demand for them. He admitted that to allow ladies to be registered who had taken degrees in foreign Universities might be regarded as an invasion of the rights of men who had studied the Profession and taken their degrees in this country; but there was nothing in this Bill that he could see that could be really objected to by medical men, and on those grounds and the important ground that in cases affecting the health of women and children their services would be of great value, he should give his support to the second reading of the Bill.


said, he intended to support the second reading on the broad, the intelligible, and, he hoped, the just ground that he would be no party to throw artificial impediments in the way of women obtaining a status as medical practitioners in this country. In his opinion, a lingering desire to maintain the monopoly of practice in the Profession lay at the root of the objections taken to this Bill; but the House of Commons was opposed to monopolies of whatever description. The hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse), with that skill and confidence that distinguished the Legal Profession, opposed the Bill, and asked why the British Parliament should be called upon to pass a Bill proposing to give special advantages and facilities to women to obtain medical education? His (Lord Eslington's) answer was, because we had placed women, by the harshness of our law, in a position of disability, and Parliament having done so, Parliament ought to remove it wherever it was possible; and here all women asked was that those women who had received a medical education, and had qualified, themselves for the Medical Profession, should be allowed to avail themselves of their education and skill. Parliament was jealous of what were called the rights of women. There were more women than men in England, and their opportunities of advancing in life were limited by the operation of the law, and Parliament should in its wisdom do all it could to assist them by removing impediments to their obtaining a useful and respectable means of support. Now, surely there was no branch of science in which women could be employed more advantageously to mankind than in the Medical Profession. It was not for the House of Commons to estimate the chances of their being employed. If there were a number of women courageous and self-denying enough to throw aside the natural feeling of timidity, ought Parliament to place impediments in the way of their reaching the goal of their honourable ambition? If there were a number of female qualified medical practitioners in this country, he believed that nine-tenths, if not the whole, of the opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts would fall to the ground. For this reason alone he should like to see women admitted to the practice of medicine. He believed they were perfectly competent to do so. He knew that at the present moment there was a lady physician in London who was obtaining more fees than any male medical practitioner in the metropolis. In conclusion, the noble Lord remarked that women were perfectly competent to protect their own morality.


said, the success of the effort of the hon. and learned Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) to prevent the women from entering the Medical Profession was, he was happy to say, extremely problematical. No question had made more rapid progress than this had done during the last few years. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) introduced a Bill to enable Scotch Universities at their discretion to grant medical degrees to women. Some high legal authorities, including, he believed, the Lord Advocate, had held that the Scotch Universities could grant medical degrees to women; but the Courts of Law decided that the University of Edinburgh did not possess such a power, and the women who had already graduated were thrown adrift. The Bill which he referred to was thrown out, and the right hon. Gentleman now adopted the only other alternative of allowing women who had obtained certain foreign degrees to have their names inscribed on the Medical Register of Great Britain. He regretted that the hon. Member for Galway (Dr. Ward) should have expressed an opinion that to allow women to practise the Profession would be subversive of all the established rules and usages of the Profession; but he would remind the hon. Gentleman that the Medical Council were not now hostile to the admission of women to the study of medicine. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not divide the House on the present measure, because he believed the division would be taken on a false issue. The Medical Council was now in favour of the principle of admitting women to the Profession, and he understood that that body was also prepared to support a Bill on the subject introduced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder of London. Even the Government had been educated, for he believed the noble Lord the President of the Council stated plainly the other night that the Government was prepared to give the utmost support in its power to the Recorder's Bill. That Bill embodied everything that was proposed three years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hampshire. That right hon. Gentleman might then with perfect consistency withdraw the Bill at present before the House, and which was confessedly but a makeshift one, in favour of one which embodied all that he himself had originally proposed. He trusted, therefore, that on the present occasion the right hon. Gentleman would not press his Bill to a division if the Government gave the House an assurance that the measure introduced by the Recorder should be proceeded with.


I regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire (Mr. Cowper-Temple) should have spoken so much about the Medical Profession being opposed to allowing women to be placed on the Medical Register. I think my right hon. Friend has mistaken the strength of that feeling. There are no doubt many who think women are unfitted for the practice of medicine and surgery; and there are others who think the public demand for female doctors is much exaggerated. But there are few who have the selfish feelings ascribed to them by my right hon. Friend, or who would try to exclude women from the Profession in the desire to keep a monopoly of practice. There certainly have been considerable difficulties in adapting to the education of women institutions which were established for the education of men. This, however, would have occurred in regard to any Profession, such as the Law or the Church. In fact, as my hon. Friend remarked just now, public opinion and the opinion of the Profession have grown so rapidly within a year or two, that it is surprising so little prejudice and so little opposition have been shown. The steady and obtuse refusal which has been spoken of, was in reality a want of adaptation of the institutions to these purposes. In the case of the Edinburgh University the medical school is altogether insufficient for the purpose of educating men, and we have subscribed £80,000 in order to build a new medical school to receive the men who are desirous of admission. Therefore it was simply impossible to adapt our institution to the sudden influx of the other sex. This subject is, however, receiving the full attention of the Royal Commission on Scotch Universities, of which Commission I have the honour to be a Member. As a proof that my right hon. Friend was mistaken in thinking that the medical men opposed the introduction of women into the Profession, I may state that I have many hundreds of medical men in my constituency, and that I have not received from one of them a letter in opposition to this Bill. I have presented a Petition from the College of Physicians of Edinburgh pointing out the difficulty of carrying out this measure, but to the general principle that women, if they desire to enter the Profession, shall be able to do so in a proper manner, I have not re- ceived a single objection. The two Universities which I represent, and both of which are interested in the training of medical graduates, have not petitioned against this Bill. Now, there are two Bills before the House. There is the Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder of London, the principle of which is that the Licensing Bodies of the Kingdom should be allowed to admit women to practise medicine and surgery. That is a Permissive Bill, which may have large consequences if it is carried into effect. As the force of public opinion increases on this subject there will be found Licensing Bodies which will admit women to a place in the Register. Of this Bill of the Recorder's the Government have, I believe, expressed a general approval. If the Government were distinctly to state that they are really desirous that that Bill should pass this Session, I hope my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hampshire will not press forward his measure. I will give one or two reasons why he should not press it forward. There are several objections to his Bill. He gives to the Universities mentioned in the Schedule a right for any female graduate in those Universities to come to be placed on the English Register. But what do foreign nations do themselves? Germany, for example, will not take the imprimatur of the Universities of Berlin and Leipsic, but requires all candidates for the Medical Profession to pass a special examination to show that they know the practice as well as the theory of their art. Why, then, should we accept the degrees of those Universities without any such test in England? I can quite sympathize with those who would open a side door to admit ladies to the Profession, but it would be impossible to close that side door against male graduates, and, in that event, the Medical Registration Act would be broken through. The Bill of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder is amply sufficient, and I trust Her Majesty's Government will give facilities for passing it into law.


said, that the principle of admitting women to the Medical Profession had been accepted by the Medical Council, and practically, therefore, the question was simply one of time. Sir William Gull had said there could be only two courses open—to re- ject Mr. Cowper-Temple's Bill and shelve the whole question as regarded England; or to take up the whole question and accept the pith of Mr. Cowper-Temple's Bill. The Report of the Medical Council was perfectly clear, and not capable of any misunderstanding. Though they expressed an opinion that there were special reasons why medicine might not be a field suitable for women, they were not prepared to say that women ought to be excluded from the Profession. The practical question for the House was, not whether women in large numbers should study and practise medicine, but whether Parliament was justified in maintaining a law which prevented women from following the practice and rendering service to any who might desire to employ them. After the advances of the Government to the Medical Council, he believed that the Government intended to support the enabling Bill of the right hon. and learned Recorder for London, and he concurred with some of those who had gone before him in the opinion that if the Government would give that measure an efficacious support, it would not be advisable to divide upon the measure now before the House. He hoped his noble Friend the Vice President of the Council would be able to make a satisfactory statement to the House on this matter. He could not understand how the Government could address such a question as they addressed to the Medical Council at the close of last Session, and could receive such a reply, without coming under some kind of obligation to deal with this question. He therefore trusted his noble Friend would make some statement satisfactory to the House and to his right hon. Friend on this subject.


The discussion which has taken place to-day has shown that considerable interest is taken in this subject. Hon. Members have shown full knowledge of the gravity of the subject, and the general tone of the discussion has been of a moderate character, and has led one to feel that the proposal brought forward by my right hon. Friend is not one that the House is prepared to scout entirely. I will not enter into the general question of fitness or unfitness of women to enter into the Medical Profession, or to take a concern in the affairs of life generally, in the same way as men do. The field is wide when we enter into that subject; but before we pass away from it, I must protest against some opinions which have been stated in the House, as to any necessary injury to the female character resulting from their being concerned in surgical or medical matters. I, for one, cannot forget the very distinguished services which the ladies of England rendered at the time of the Crimean War under Miss Nightingale, nor as representing Liverpool, the circumstances under which Miss Jones, one of the most delicate-minded and gifted of her sex, exerted herself at the head of one of the largest infirmaries at Liverpool—and I need not say what the duties of a surgical nurse are—and I never heard it stated for one moment that the delicacy, refinement, moral sense, and higher feelings of those women were injured by any service which they rendered. I have thought it right to say this, as some rather strong opinions have been expressed on this subject. As to our reception of this Bill, I must say at once we could not concede the principle of this Bill to women without proceeding in the very next Session to allow men to practice with foreign qualifications; and this, as the House is aware, would lead to a large and disputed question, and one on which great difference of opinion prevails, and in regard to which the Government are not prepared at this moment, or called upon at this moment, to pronounce an opinion. That alone would make it absolutely essential to refuse to accede to this Bill. It is absolutely impossible to legislate with regard to foreign qualifications for women alone. With regard to that point there can be no doubt as to the action of the Government. But I think it is right I should state what has been our course in this matter, so that the House may see we have not neglected the matter. During the last Session of Parliament, the Lord President of the Council, within whose Department these matters specially fall, wrote to the Medical Council. Now, when I allude to the Medical Council, I ought to remind the House that you cannot have a more important body as representing a great Profession. By universal consent they are admitted to possess the best and most acknowledged abilities from the three sister countries; so what- ever opinion they give in their corporate capacity is one worthy of the highest and gravest consideration. This question of the Bill of the right hon. Member for Hampshire was accordingly referred by the Lord President to the Medical Council for their opinion. We said—"Before, as a Government, we give an opinion on the medical question, we ask the opinion of the Medical Council"—it being well understood that we did not bind ourselves to take their advice. We thought it greatly due to that important body that before we came to an opinion ourselves we should be at any rate in possession of the opinion of the Medical Council. That is really the position as between the Medical Council and the Government. The Bill was referred to that Council, and it is impossible not to be struck by their words—that they are not prepared to say that women ought to be excluded from the Profession. They stated various recommendations which they would make, supposing Parliament decided to admit women to the Profession, and one important observation of theirs was, that they thought care might be taken—care ought to be taken—for the sake of public order, that their education and examination should be separate from that of male students. That rather meets one of the objections to the Bill, showing, as it does, that the mixing of the sexes in the early days of student life would be avoided if the State thought it ought to be avoided. It would be obviously most undesirable that students, male and female, should be in association in our hospitals together during the period of lecturing. At various periods during the last twelve months the Government have also taken the opportunity of consulting privately with leading members of the Profession in London, and have had communication with deputations of those ladies who now do practise medicine—and I must be allowed to say that they were well qualified as individuals to adorn any Profession to which they may belong. After these consultations the Government became aware that my right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder for London proposed to bring in a Bill to enable the Corporations or Universities to admit women to the Profession. The Lord President referred this new Bill to the Medical Council, who replied, that as to the general principle, they adhered to what they said last year; but with regard to the Bill itself, they made he objection, but proposed two or three amendments. In the face of what we knew of the opinion of leading medical men in London, and of the Medical Council, the Government came to the conclusion that it was their duty to assent to the Bill of my right hon. and learned Friend the Recorder for London, taking care to make it clear that it was permissive, not compulsory. They felt that the Bill, which seemed to be very acceptable to what may be called the two opposing parties, was a very fair compromise, and might be a useful measure. None of the corporations would be obliged to admit women unless they liked, and we engaged to see that this was made clear in the Bill. We also engaged to see that a Proviso was made that if women were admitted to the Register, they would not thereby necessarily be qualified to take their seats on the Governing Bodies of the University Corporations. It will be unnecessary to enter upon that wide subject. That was the decision of the Government in the matter as to their being enabled this Session to give that amount of active support which I suppose entails setting apart a day for the right hon. Gentleman's pleasure. Nobody would suppose that we could do so this Session; but so far as the Government is prepared to support a moderate enabling Bill, unopposed as it is by the Medical Council, or, as I may say, supported indirectly by the Council and members of the Medical Profession in London, and accepted by some of those ladies who have made themselves distinguished in this matter, the Government felt it right to take this step, and that is the position of the matter now. I hope, under these circumstances, my right hon. Friend will not press his Bill to a division. I have no other alternative, if he does so, than to oppose it on the part of the Government, as we would not admit the principle involved in the Bill of enabling foreign diplomas to give a pass to English practice.


I have heard the speech of the noble Lord the Vice President of the Council with pleasure; and there is only one sentence to which I could take exception, and that is where he rather discourages the opinion that the Bill could be passed during the present Session. The Minis- try has a wonderful power to do anything it likes when it pleases, and from the discussion to-day it is clear the House is in favour of this legislation. We have heard it stated on the authority of the noble Lord that the Medical Council is in favour of the Bill; it is merely a Bill to enable the different Medical Bodies, if they choose, to make such arrangements as to them seems proper for the purpose of admitting women to study medicine, and if they have studied it, to commence practice. Therefore the object is simple; and the House is so far agreed, that I have no doubt, if the noble Lord will only look upon it with a favourable eye, the Bill may even be passed during the present Session. I am the more anxious to press this upon the House, because every year during which this matter is delayed a really serious injustice is inflicted upon somebody. There are, no doubt, some meritorious women who are engaged in study, and who are approaching the time when they may be able to go up for examination and commence practice. There are a great many women in this country who are suffering from maladies, or may suffer from maladies, who would be able to have the assistance of medical advisers of their own sex. Therefore, for the sake of meritorious women who are studying, and those who are suffering, the Government, having once made up their mind on this subject, could not do a wiser thing than do what they have to do at once. Though we have come nearly to the conclusion of the Session, there will no doubt yet be Bills of which we have not heard brought in and passed, and the Government can do the same for this. We may thus get rid of a matter which is an extensive injustice in the minds of some persons, and add to the character of our Parliamentary work.


also urged the Government to take up the right hon. and learned Recorder's Bill and pass it this Session, and quoted a report written by one of the ladies attached to the Hospital for Women to show that further delay and uncertainty would seriously prejudice the existing arrangements for study and hospital practice, which ladies could not afford to avail themselves of while there was any doubt as to their being allowed to practise when their education was completed.


said, at the proper time he would adduce good reasons why ladies should not be allowed to qualify at all.


expressed his satisfaction with the debate, as showing that the opinion of the House was in favour of dealing with the subject. He was much pleased with what the noble Lord had said. It made his Bill no longer necessary, and he would therefore propose to withdraw it.

Amendment and Motion, by leave withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.