Anyone travelling along Euston Road in London at the moment cannot fail to notice a large building site just to the east of Euston Station. Here work is under way to build a new headquarters for Unison, the public service workers’ union. The plan is for a new office building on Euston Road, with housing behind. Tucked into the south-western corner of the site, at the moment shrouded in scaffolding and plastic, is an old red-brick building. This was the first incarnation of the New Hospital for Women, later much expanded and renamed, after its founder, the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. This building is listed and, as part of the development, being restored by Unison to its full Victorian splendour. In Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle I describe how the hospital was founded and give details – and photographs – of its original design.
In 1890 the main ground-floor room of the Hospital, facing onto Euston Road, was known as the Medical Institute and was used, not by patients, but by women doctors, both those working at this hospital and elsewhere. At that time women were not allowed membership of the British Medical Association and it was thought essential to have a meeting place and library where, once qualified, they could meet. It is in this room that, when the restored building reopens at the end of 2010, there will be a permanent exhibition – the Unison EGA Gallery. Here will be celebrated the life and work of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (who in 1865 was the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the UK), the work of women in medicine, and struggles for equality during the 20th century. The Gallery will include an account of the history of the building and of the succession of campaigns that fought to save the hospital from closure.
Elizabeth Crawford is the author of Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle, published by Francis Boutle Publishers in 2002 and to be republished at £25 in Winter 2009 in an edition of 500.
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