International Women’s Week: Marion Gilchrist

As part of IWW we will be sharing a series of blog posts to profile individuals, teams or initiatives that contributed to gender equality or #BeBoldForChange.

Marion Gilchrist (1864-1952) was the first female graduate of the University of Glasgow, and the first woman to gain a medical degree in Scotland.

She was Vice-President of the Queen Margaret College Student Union, Vice-President of the Literary and Debating Society, and Convener of the Queen Margaret College Committee of the Glasgow University Liberal Club. The Gilchrist Postgraduate Club and Marion Gilchrist Prize are named for her.

Born in Bothwell Park, Marion matriculated as an arts student at the Queen Margaret College in 1887. At the end of her first year, she began to take the exams leading to a LLA (Lady Literate in Arts) awarded by the University of St Andrews, which she gained in 1890. That year, she was one of nine women who enrolled in the newly-opened Medical School at Queen Margaret College. She graduated MB CM in July 1894 with Alice Lilian Louisa Cumming, gaining the distinction of being the first female medical graduate by winning a high commendation.

Marion became a general practitioner in the West End of Glasgow, specialising in eye diseases. From 1914 until 1930 she was Assistant Surgeon for Diseases of the Eye at the Victoria Infirmary. In 1927 she became an ophthalmic surgeon at Redlands Hospital for Women. She was also active in the voluntary sector, serving from 1903 to 1911 as physician to the Queen Margaret College Settlement’s Invalid Children’s School.

In 1903 Marion joined the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women’s Suffrage, but left in 1907 to join the more radical Women’s Social and Political Union and the Women’s Freedom League. She was a prominent member of the British Medical Association and the first woman chairman of its Glasgow division. She was also a trustee of the Muirhead Trust.

Gilchrist was an early motoring enthusiast and her garage and chauffeur’s house were situated in Ashton Lane, in the premises now occupied by Bar Brel.

Marion’s namesake on campus, the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club, today provides a hub on campus for our postgraduate students and staff. Throughout International Women’s Week (6th – 10th March), the café will host a fitting exhibition featuring stories of some of the University’s remarkable women. For one week only, the Gilchrist will be open to all from 8am – 11pm for you to enjoy these alumni stories.

You can learn about more of our inspiring women on our digital display at the Welcome Point in the McIntyre Building. We’re very grateful to Archive Services for their help in providing the information for this post, our posterboards in the Gilchrist and the digital display.

International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world on Wednesday 8th March. Check out the the full fantastic events programme for International Women’s Week at Glasgow University and on the International Women’s Week Facebook event.

Throughout the week, GUSA, GUU and QMU will be sharing more stories of women, teams and initiatives in our history which have contributed to gender equality and which fit this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BeBoldForChange.

Marion Gilchrist
Marion Gilchrist