“Lady, go home and sit still” - Elsie Maud Inglis and the Scottish Women’s Hospital
100 years ago today, on the 5th December 1914, the first all-women mobile hospital unit, the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, was posted to Royaumont, France.
Founder and suffragist, the formidable Dr Elsie Maud Inglis, deserves to be a household name in Scotland. Yet despite being celebrated as something of a wartime heroine in Serbia – where she was decorated with the highest honour that the country could award – she remains relatively unknown in her home country.
A student of medicine in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Inglis belonged to the first generation of women to train as doctors in the UK. Upon the outbreak of WW1 Inglis was determined that female doctors should be allowed to contribute to the war effort, and offered her services to the War Office. Met with disdain, the “good lady” was famously told by an unnamed official to “go home and sit still”. Undeterred, she formed an independent hospital unit staffed entirely by women. Funded by the Scottish Federation of Women's Suffrage Societies and public subscription, the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH) was born.
The Scottish Women’s Hospital collection at Glasgow City Archives includes a variety of materials created and collected by the treasurer of the SWH. These include personal correspondence, reports, and personnel files; plus medals, badges, and several albums of photographs that shed a fascinating light on the lives of these tenacious women who refused to stay home and sit still.