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Scottish Eastern Association, Medical Women's Federation

Identifier: GD51

Scope and Contents

Minutes, publications (such as annual reports), correspondence, campaigning papers, and ephemera.


  • Creation: 1915-2012

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Public access to these records is governed by UK data protection legislation, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, and the current Scottish Government Records Management: NHSCode of Practice (Scotland). Whilst some records may be accessed freely by researchers, the aforementioned legislation and guidelines mean that records conveying sensitive information on named individuals may be closed to the public for a set time.

Where records relate to named deceased adults, they will be open 75 years after the latest date referenced, on the next 1 January. Records of individuals below 18 years of age or adults not proven to be deceased will be open 100 years after the latest date recorded, on the next 1 January. Further information on legislation and guidelines covering medical records can be found here:

LHSA encourages the use of these records for legitimate clinical, historical and genealogical research purposes, and records that are designated as closed can be consulted by legitimate researchers if certain conditions are met. Please contact the LHSA Archivist for more details regarding procedures on how you can apply for permission to view closed records. Telephone us on: 0131 650 3392 or email us at

Biographical / Historical

The Scottish Eastern Association (SEA) of the Medical Women’s Federation is a Scottish local branch of the larger, national Federation. The Medical Women’s Federation was founded in 1917 as a successor of the Association of Registered Medical Women. The Federation was established in order to provide a shared voice for a growing number of local associations for female physicians. An early concern, which significantly inspired the development of such a coalition, was the unwillingness of the British Government to allow female physicians to offer their services to the war effort.

Other early concerns for the Medical Women’s Federation, which is reflected in the work of SEA, were issues of equal pay and bars on employment for married female medical staff. The difficulty in balancing family and professional roles is a continuing theme in the work of the SEA. A particular issue has been the barriers that female physicians experience when re-entering the workforce following periods of maternity leave. To address this issue the SEA participated in launching a local Retainer Scheme in 1972. The Scheme allowed participants to attend continued training sessions and subside their subscription to the General Medical Council and the Medical Protection Society.

Apart from working towards improved work conditions for female physicians, members of the Medical Women’s Federation have been concerned with diverse areas of public health, from improved cervical cancer screening to mental health reforms. The Medical Women’s Federation have also been active internationally since the early years of its formation; they were a founding member of the Medical Women’s International Association in 1919. In 1937 the SEA hosted the International Association’s Fourth Congress in Edinburgh and helped organise a Scottish post-Congress tour in 1958.

Notable campaign in the history of the SEA are the Bruntsfield and Elsie Inglis Hospital Campaigns. Both Bruntsfield Hospital (1899-1989) and Elsie Inglis Memorial Maternity Hospital (1925-1988) had a tradition of employing and educating female staff, and are connected with notable female physicians such as Sophia Jex-Blake (1840-1912), Alexandra Mary Chalmers Watson (1872-1936) and Elsie Maud Inglis (1864-1917). Members of the SEA were active in petitioning the government for the continued appointment of female physicians for the Bruntsfield and Elsie Inglis Memorial hospitals in the 1950’s, following changes to the appointment of medical staff. During the closure of the hospitals in the late 1980s members of the SEA partook in lobbing against their closure. They were later on active in the University of Edinburgh Settlement’s project for the establishment of an Elsie Inglis Memorial Care Village. Dr Jan Scott of the SEA was a prominent figure in the later campaigns and her papers from this period makes up a significant part of the collection.


2 linear metres

Edith Halvarsson
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Repository Details

Part of the Lothian Health Services Archive Repository

Centre for Research Collections
Edinburgh University Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44 (0)131 650 3392