Records of the Scottish Women's Hospitals

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 2SWH
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 A-E.
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English French
  • Physical Description
      7 A boxes

Scope and Content

The archive consists of the records of the London Committee of the Scottish Women's Hospitals (SWH): authorisations, correspondence, files, circular letters, telegrams, postcards, photographs, statements of accounts, balance sheets, cheques and counterfoils, reports, lecture notes, lists of donors.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service (1914-1919) was part of the suffrage response to the First World War. At the outbreak of the First World War, a large number of the existing suffrage societies put their administrative skills at the disposal of the war effort. The Scottish Federation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, at the suggestion of Dr Elsie Inglis, put forward the idea of female medical units to serve on the front line. The War Office rejected the idea, but nonetheless private donations, the fundraising of local societies and the support of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies financed a number of units staffed entirely by women. The organisation's headquarters were in Edinburgh throughout the war, with committees also in Glasgow and London, working closely with the London office of the Croix Rouge Francaise. The Fawcett Society was particularly involved with the London Unit of the Scottish Women's Hospitals. The first unit mobilised established a 200 bed Auxiliary Hospital at Royaumont Abbey in Dec 1914. In Apr 1915, Dr Inglis herself was at the head of a unit based in Serbia. By Jun 1915 SWH had responsibility for more than 1,000 beds with 250 staff including 19 women doctors. The Austrian offensive of that summer led to their camps being overrun and a number of the staff including Inglis herself being taken prisoner, only to be released after negotiations. By the end of the war there were fourteen Scottish Women's Hospitals in France, Serbia, Russia, Salonica and Macedonia. Inglis herself was ill with cancer by 1917 while working in Russia. She and her unit were part of the retreat of forces to Archangel and she was evacuated to Newcastle on the 25 Nov 1919 of that year, only to die the following day. The Scottish Women's Hospitals work continued until the end of the war.

Access Information

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

This material came to The Fawcett Library with material from the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Alternative Form Available

The Women's Library uses Mary Evans Picture Library (MEPL) to provide images from its collections, see

For a copy of the attached image please contact MEPL, quoting the MEPL image reference 10091525. [Original is held at The Women's Library TWL.2000.62]

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the Papers of Elsie Bowerman (7ELB); the Papers of Vera (Jack) Holme (7VJH); a Scrapbook [relating to the Scottish Women's Hospital] (10/22). The Women's Library Museum Collection holds postcards and photographs related to the Scottish Women's Hospital and of several of the women who served. Similarly the Printed Collections holds additional material such as 'The Scottish Women's Hospital at the French Abbey of Royaumont' by Antonio de Navarro (1917); 'The Little grey partridge : First World War diary of Ishobel Ross who served with the Scottish Women's Hospital Unit in Serbia' introduced by Jess Dixon (1988) as well as biographies of individuals such as 'Dr Elsie Inglis' by Lady Frances Balfour (1918)

Letters and reports of Elsie Inglis as well as correspondence, financial records, subscriptions, personnel files and various committee minutes created by the Scottish Headquarters, as well as reports from overseas units are held in the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Additional Materials of members of the units is held in various archives: memoirs of Katherine North née Hodges are in the Leeds Russian Archive; the journals of Mary Lee Milne and Margaret Marx's photograph album are held by the National Library of Scotland; papers of Lilas M Grant and Ethel Moir are in the Edinburgh Central Library; the Lothian Health archives hold the letters of Yvonne Fitzroy; and the Schleisinger Library, Harvard University holds the papers of Ruth Holden.