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Elsie Inglis
By Eva Shaw McLaren (1920)


"To light a path for men to come" is the privilege of the pioneer; and the life of a pioneer, the hewer of a new path, is always encouraging, whether he who goes before to open the way be a voyager to the Poles or the uttermost parts of the earth, in imminent danger of physical death, or whether he be an adventurer, cutting a path to a new race consciousness, revealing the power of service in new vocations, evoking new powers, and living in hourly danger of mental suffocation by prejudices and inhibitions of race tradition.

The women's irresistible movement, which has so suddenly flooded all departments of work previously considered the monopoly of men, required from the leaders indomitable courage, selflessness, and faith, qualities of imperishable splendour; and to read the life of Elsie Inglis is to recognize instantly that she was one of these ruthless adventurers, hewing her way through all perils and difficulties to bring to pass the dreams of thousands of women. The world's standard of success may appear to give the prize to those who collect things, but in reality the crown of victory, the laurel wreath, the tribute beyond all material value, is always reserved for those invisible, intangible qualities which are evinced in character.

It is wonderful to read how slowly and surely that character was formed through twenty years of monotonous routine. The establishing of a Hospice for women and children, run entirely by women, was not a popular movement, and through long years of dull, arduous work, patient, silent, honest, dedicated unconsciously to the service of others, she laid the foundations which led to her great achievement, and so, full of courage and growing in power, like Nelson she developed a blind eye, to which she put her telescope in times of bewilderment; she could never see the difficulties which loomed large in her way—sex prejudices and mountains of race convictions to be moved—and so she moved them!

In founding The Hospice she gave herself first to the women and children round her; later, in the urgent call of the Suffrage movement, she devoted herself whole-heartedly to the service of the women of the country, and so she was ready when the war came. Her own country refused her services; but Providence has a strange way of turning what appears to be evil into great good. The refusal of the British Government to accept the services of medically trained women caused them to offer their services elsewhere; and so she went first to help the French, and then to encourage and serve Serbia in her dire need.

And so from the first she was a pioneer: in doing medical work among women and children; in achieving the rights of citizenship for women; and in the further great adventure of establishing the true League of Nations which lies in the will to serve mankind.

(Mrs. Henry Simson)



Chapter I - Elsie Inglis
Tributes from various sources—A woman of solved problems

Chapter II - The Rock from which She was Hewin
Elsie Inglis the central figure on the stage—Men and women of the past, the people of her race, crowd round her—Their influence on her—Their spirit seen in hers

Chapter III - 1864-1894
Childhood in India—Friendship with her father—Schooldays in Edinburgh—Death of her mother—Study of Medicine—Death of her father—Practice started in Edinburgh in 1894—Twenty years of professional life: interests, friendships—Varied Descriptions of Dr. Inglis by Miss S. E. S. Mair and Dr. Beatrice Russell

Chapter IV - Her Medical Career
Fellow-students' and doctors' reminiscences—The New School of Medicine for Women in Edinburgh—The growth of her practice—Her sympathy with her poor patients—The founding of The Hospice—Some characteristics

Chapter V - The Solved Problems
The problems of the unmarried woman—Dr. Inglis's unpublished novel, The Story of a Modern Woman—Quotations from the novel—Many parts of novel evidently autobiographical—Heroine in novel solves the problem of "the lonely woman"

Chapter VI - "Her Children"
Dr. Inglis a child-lover—Her writings full of the descriptions of children—Quotations from the novel

Chapter VII - The Hospice
Founded 1901—Description of premises in the High Street amongst the poor of Edinburgh—Dr. Inglis's love for The Hospice

Chapter VIII - The Suffrage Campaign
Justice of claim appealed to Dr. Inglis—Worked from constitutional point of view—Founding of Scottish Federation of Suffrage Societies—Dr. Inglis's activities for the cause—Tributes from women who worked with her—Description of meeting addressed by her

Chapter IX - Scottish Women's Hospitals
Dr. Inglis at the outbreak of war: Full of vigour and enthusiasm—Idea mooted at Federation Committee Meeting—Rapid growth—Hospitals in the field in December

Chapter X - Serbia
Dreadful condition of country—Arrival of Dr. Soltau and Dr. Hutchison and Unit—Dr. Inglis's arrival in May, 1915—Fountain at Mladanovatz—Letter from officer who designed fountain—Dr. Inglis and her Unit taken prisoners in November—Account of work at Krushevatz—Release in February, 1916—Tributes from Miss Christitch and Lieut.-Colonel Popovitch

Chapter XI - Russia
Dr. Inglis's start for Russia in August, 1916—Unit attached to Serb Division near Odessa—Three weeks' work at Medjidia—Retreat to Braila—Order of three retreats—Work at Reni—Description of Dr. Inglis by one of her Unit—Account of her last Communion

Chapter XII - "If You want us Home, Get them Out"
Serb Division in unenviable position—Dr. Inglis's determination to save them from wholesale slaughter—Hard work through summer months to achieve their safety—Efforts crowned with success—Left for England in October, bringing her Unit and the Division with her

Chapter XIII - "The New Work" and Memories
Landed at Newcastle on November 23, 1917—Illness on voyage—Dr. Ethel Williams's testimony to her fearlessness in facing death—Triumph in passing—Scenes at funeral in Edinburgh—Memories


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