During her medical career Dr. Inglis never
lost sight of one aim, equal opportunity for the woman with the man in
all branches of education and practical training and responsibility. She
recognized that young women doctors in Edinburgh suffered under a
serious disadvantage in being ineligible for the post of resident
medical officer in the Royal Infirmary and the chief maternity hospital.
"But," writes a friend, "it was characteristic of her and her inherent
inability to visualize obstacles except as incentive to greater effort
that she set herself to remedy this disadvantage instead of accepting it
as an insurmountable difficulty. Women
doctors must found a maternity hospital of their own. That
was her first decision. A committee was formed, and the public responded
generously to an appeal for funds." Through the kindness of Dr. Hugh
Barbour, a house in George Square was put at the committee's disposal.
But Dr. Inglis felt that it must be near the homes of the poor women who
needed its shelter, and after four years a site was chosen in the
historic High Street. Three stories in a huge "tenement," reached by a
narrow winding stair, were adapted, and The Hospice opened its doors.
It was opened in 1901 as a hospital for women, with a dispensary and
out-patient department, admitting cases of accident and general illness
as well as maternity patients. After nine years, it was decided to draft
the general cases from the district to the Edinburgh Hospital for Women
and Children, and The Hospice devoted all its beds to maternity cases.
THE HOSPICE, HIGH STREET, EDINBURGH
Photo by D. Scott
As soon as the admission book showed a steady intake of
patients, Dr. Inglis applied for and secured recognition
as a lecturer for the Central Midwifery Board, in order to be in a
position to admit resident pupils (nurses and students) to The Hospice
for practical instruction in midwifery. She at the same time applied to
the University of Edinburgh for recognition as an extramural lecturer on
gynæcology. Recognition was granted, and for some years she lectured,
using The Hospice or the Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children at
Bruntsfield Place for her practical instruction.
A woman doctor writes: "In thus starting a maternity hospital in the
heart of this poor district she showed the understanding born of her
long experience in the High Street and her great sympathy for all women
in their hour of need. Single-handed she developed a maternity indoor
and district service, training her nurses herself in anticipation of the
extension of the Midwives Act to Scotland. Never too tired to turn out
at night as well as by day, cheerfully taking on the necessary
lecturing, she always worked to lay such a foundation that a properly
equipped maternity hospital would be the natural outcome."
Though hampered by lack of money and suitable assistance, she was never
daunted, and in a characteristic way insisted that all necessary medical
requirements should be met, whatever the expense. She worked at The
Hospice with devotion. Though cherishing always her aim of an
institution which, while serving the poor, should provide a training for
women doctors, she threw herself heart and soul into the work because
she loved it for its own sake, and she loved her poor patients.
In 1913 Dr. Inglis went to America, and her letters were full of her
plans for further development on her return. At Muskegon, Michigan, she
found a small memorial hospital, of which she wrote enthusiastically as
the exact thing she wanted for midwifery in Edinburgh.
On returning from America, for a time she was far from well, and one of
her colleagues, in September, 1913, urged her to forgo her hard work at
The Hospice, begging her to take things more easily.
Her reply, in a moment of curious concentration and earnestness, was
characteristic: "Give me one more year;
I know there is a future there, and someone will be found to take it
on." A year later, when it seemed inevitable that it must come to an end
with her departure for Serbia, those interested in The Hospice passed
through deep waters in saving it, but the unanswerable argument against
closing its doors was always that big circle of patients, often pleading
her name, flocking up its stair, certain of help.
"Three things foreseen by Dr. Inglis have happened since her departure:
"1. The extension of the Midwives Act to Scotland, establishing
recognized training centres for midwifery nursing.
"2. The extension of Notification of Births Act, making State
co-operation in maternity service possible.
"3. The admission of women medical students to the University,
making an opportunity for midwifery training in Edinburgh of
immediate and paramount importance.
"The relation of The Hospice to these three events is as follows:
"1. It is now fourth on the list of recognized training centres in
Scotland, following the three large maternity hospitals.
"2. It is incorporated in the Maternity and Child Welfare scheme of
Edinburgh, which assists in out-patient work, though not in the
provision of beds.
"3. It has full scope under the Ordinances of the Scottish
Universities to train women medical students in Clinical Midwifery
if it had a sufficient number of beds.
"The Hospice has the distinction of being the only maternity training
centre run by women in Scotland. From this point of view it is of great
value to women students, affording them opportunities of study denied to
them in other maternity hospitals.
"To those of her friends who knew her Edinburgh life intimately, Elsie
Inglis's love of The Hospice was the
love of a mother for her child. She was never too tired or too busy to
respond to any demand its patients made upon her time and energy, always
ready to go anywhere in crowded close, or remote tenement, if it was to
see a mother who had once been an in-patient there or a baby born within
its walls. True, Dr. Inglis saw The Hospice with romantic eyes, with
that vision of future perfection which is the seal of pure romance in
motherhood. Because of this she cheerfully accepted those cramped and
inconvenient flats, reached by the narrow common stair which vanishes
past The Hospice door in a corkscrew flight to regions under the roof.
Inconvenience and straitened quarters were as nothing, for was not her
Nursing Home exactly where she wished it, with the ebb and flow of the
High Street at its feet? Dr. Inglis always rejoiced greatly in the High
Street, in the charm of the precincts of St. Giles, that ineffable Heart
of Midlothian, serenely catholic, brooding upon the motley life that has
surged for centuries about its doors. Here, where she loved to be, The
Hospice is finding a new home, an adequate building, modern equipment,
and endowed beds, and it will stand a living memorial, communicating to
all who pass in and out of its doors, to women in need, to women strong
to help, the inspiration of Dr. Elsie Inglis's ideal of service."