regarded as a heroine of the First World War and an advocate for women’s rights the dogged resilience of Dr Elsie Inglis, who was instrumental in setting up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, has been honoured by Royalty in her home city 100 years after her death.
Hundreds of people paid their respects at a service yesterday at St Giles Cathedral marking a centenary since Dr Inglis was laid to rest. The commemoration began at the Castle Esplanade as the Royal Regiment of Scotland’s military band marched to perform at West Parliament Square.
Army nurse Sergeant Catherine Pounder handed a wreath to HRH The Princess Royal to lay at Dr Inglis’ plaque in the Cathedral.
Special guests also included First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop and Lord Lieutenant of the City of Edinburgh Frank Ross.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, said: “Elsie Inglis was a remarkable woman and it is right 100 years on that we reflect on her achievements. A powerful role model for women today she was undeterred by the restraints of society and social norms and she ploughed ahead with her vision to provide medical services during World War One.
“She used her skills to demonstrate what women are capable of, helping women win the vote while looking after men on the frontline. And she helped look after both the prosperous and the poor in Edinburgh.
“As we work to fix social injustices and ensure equality today, we should reflect on what has been achieved in the 100 years since Elsie’s death. And we should celebrate the role that she, and the women who served with her in the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, achieved for us today.”
Dr Inglis great, great niece Patricia Purdom, who was at the service, said: “I am tremendously proud of Elsie Inglis and her achievements, and I am delighted that her memory is being recognised through these services. I would have loved to have met her and heard her stories first-hand. I remember my father recalling her remarkable achievements when we would look through the family album and I’m very privileged to still have these photos today.”
During her life, Elsie made a remarkable contribution to both the allied WW1 effort and the women’s suffrage movement. Seeing Britain’s entry into the war as an opportunity for women to play their part Elsie offered her services to Britain’s allies leading to the formation of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals.
In total, 17 Scottish Women’s Hospitals and a number of satellite hospitals and dressing stations were set up across Europe, to treat soldiers and sometimes civilians. Officials from some of the nations where Elsie set up hospitals also paid their respects including France, Serbia and Romania
Her pioneering medical work has also been recognised by The University of Edinburgh who announced they will rename the Old Medical School courtyard the Dr Elsie Inglis Quadrangle as one of they city’s first women graduates.
University of Edinburgh Principal, Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, has welcomed the news: “I am very pleased to be marking the centenary of the death of one of our most inspirational alumni. Naming our historic quadrangle after Dr Inglis is a fitting reminder of her remarkable achievements and lasting legacy.”