Determined to be a Physician
Sophia Jex-Blake was born at 3 The Croft (now 16 Croft Road), Hastings, on 21 January 1840. She was christened in St Clement's Church, just yards from the house where she lived until her family moved to Brighton in 1851.
As a child she was 'stormy, tumultuous, and unmanageable' (Strachey, 1928). These
qualities stood her in good stead for the struggles she faced as an adult. She
originally wanted to be a teacher, but her father refused to allow her to study.
He later relented and in 1858 let her attend classes at Queen's College. She became
a maths tutor but, as her parents thought it was wrong for women of their social
class to work, she was not allowed to accept a salary. Sophia taught in Germany,
and in the United States where she met and stayed with Dr. Lucy Sewell. As a result of
seeing Dr. Sewell run a women's dispensary, Sophia decided that she too wanted to be
a doctor. It was possible for women to study and qualify as doctors in the US, but
when her father died, Sophia returned to England in 1868 to look after her mother.
'Tis a beautiful thing, a woman's sphere!It took Sophia eight years of struggle to qualify as a doctor, because of opposition from men. Her opponents were the universities, the male students, and the British Medical Association. She eventually established a practice in Edinburgh where she joined the women's suffrage movement.
Sophia Jex Blake was a lesbian and never married; she once said: "I believe I love women too much ever to love a man" (Todd, p.65). In 1899 she retired to Mark Cross, Rotherfield, where she died in 1912, aged 72.
Bessie Rayner Parkes
Dr Sophia Jex Blake
Dr Elizabeth Blackwell
Dr Anna Kingsford