Papers of Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake (1840-1912)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 237 Coll-384
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 scroll tubes with contents, 2 letters, 1 casket with scroll, 4 photographs with negatives, 1 scroll.
  • Location
      Gen. 1731 Jex-Blake; Da. 81.3 (SRI Cyl. 3 and Sri Cyl. 4); Dc.3.103; Medals No.125; E87.100

Scope and Content

The collection is composed of: letters to a school friend, Carry, and to (possibly) Miss Burn; certificates awarded to Jex-Blake, 1859-1862; testimonials and congratulatory addresses, 1863-1894; an illuminated address and casket presented to Jex-Blake by the students of the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women, 1888; and, photographs of Jex-Blake. There is also a Court of Session extract, 27 June 1873, Jex-Blake versus University of Edinburgh.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake was born in January 1840. Between 1858 and 1861 she was a mathematics tutor at Queen's College in London. She travelled in continental Europe and in America inspecting girls' education, and in 1866 began the study of medicine in Boston. Jex-Blake returned to Britain in 1868, and after a hard struggle for permission she matriculated in 1869 at the Medical Faculty, Edinburgh University, along with other women wanting to become doctors. Men objected to this however and in 1870 there occurred the Surgeon's Hall riot when women were hustled and prevented from attending lectures. Admission to clinical instruction at the Royal Infirmary was also denied. In short, Jex-Blake was not allowed to complete her studies nor to take a degree. An action was brought against the University in 1872 and this was almost successful but for the appeal before the whole Court of Session which reversed the decision in 1873. Indeed, it was stated that the permission granted for the matriculation of women in 1869 was an illegal act. In 1874, Jex-Blake left Edinburgh to set up the London School of Medicine for Women. In 1877 she received her MD from the University of Bern. In 1877 too, she became a Licentiate of the Irish College of Physicians, and in 1880 a Member. In 1878 however, she was again in Edinburgh, practicing medicine. She opened the Dispensary for Women and Children in 1878, a cottage hospital in 1885, and in 1886 she founded the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women. In 1886 too, the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh opened their licentiates to women. In 1894, Edinburgh University recognised the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women for graduation. Jex-Blake retired in 1899 and returned to Sussex where she had grown up. Sophia Louisa Jex-Blake died on 7 January 1912.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Letters, description in Index dated 27 February 1969. Court extract, purchased November 1987, Accession no. E87.100.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Donaldson, Gordon (ed.). Four centuries. Edinburgh University life 1583-1983. Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh, 1983. (2) Who's who 1909. London: A. and C. Black, 1909.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show other references to Jex-Blake material (check the Indexes for more details): a letter of Jex-Blake to Lady Archibald Geikie, at Gen. 525; and, a mention in a letter of Dr. Edith Pechey-Phipson. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: letters (2), application form and newspaper cuttings, 1874-1978, Royal Free Hospital Archives Centre, Ref. 13/549-551, see HMC file, Royal Free Hospital, letter 6/5/93; HMC file, Norfolk RO.


Corporate Names