The Edinburgh Seven and the Power of the Popular Press 

Jessica Kirwan // This past July, seven women known as the Edinburgh Seven were posthumously awarded bachelor degrees in medicine by the University of Edinburgh, 150 years after they had been allowed to enroll in the medical school but not actually earn degrees. Although the women had garnered some support at the university, and much…

Lasting Impressions of the Fetus in Utero

Jessica M.E. Kirwan // It was my interest in the eccentric and macabre life of John Hunter, the Scottish father of surgery, which led me some years ago to his brother William’s 1774 book, An Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus, or “fetus in the womb.” But it has been a deeper interest in the…

Recording Women’s Contributions to the History of Victorian Health and Wellness

Jessica Kirwan // I recently interviewed Dr. Lesa Scholl, Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Victorian Women Writers, which is soon to be published by Palgrave Macmillan for their Major Reference Works portfolio. Dr. Scholl is Head of Kathleen Lumley College at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Readers of Synapsis will be interested to know…

Queering Masculinity in the Era of the New Woman Doctor

Jessica M.E. Kirwan // In Sydney Grier’s Victorian novel about a New Woman doctor, Peace with Honour, Grier plays with gender identity in ways only subtly hinted at in popular Victorian fiction and media at the time. While most depictions of the New Woman were focused on her supposed lack of femininity, Grier’s novel also…

Materializing James Barry’s Archive

Jessica Kirwan // Stories about Victorian surgeon James Barry encourage a re-examination of our own limitations in understanding gender and sex. In fiction and non-fiction, Barry’s transgender body has prompted discussions about the ideologies thought necessary for societal acceptance of non-traditional bodies practicing medicine.

Does Nature Always Heal? Perspectives from a Naturalist with Tuberculosis

Jessica Kirwan // Despite periods of poor health, and despite many moves, Emily Shore always kept loyal to her interest in the study of nature, and her talents as a naturalist did not diminish as her health worsened. In fact, she became increasingly interested in how her body’s response to the natural world improved her…

The Medical Woman in Victorian Fiction and Her Service to the Empire

Jessica Kirwan // At the end of the nineteenth century, the medical woman was simultaneously progressive and traditional. As one of the first women professionals she helped elevate the importance of women to healthcare, and her distinctly feminine qualities helped her save lives. Perhaps most importantly, however, she helped promote the British Empire.

The New Woman Doctor in Sydney C. Grier’s Peace with Honour

The path from scholarship on male doctors in Victorian literature to that of women doctors was a somewhat circuitous one, the road having been laid more as a result of a growing interest in the fin-de-siècle New Woman than in literary representations of medical professionals in fiction or symbolic representations of anxieties about disease.