The story goes that Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman in Britain to gain a medical qualification, made the decision to pursue a career in medicine when she went to visit family friend Emily Davies. While seated by the fire with Elizabeth and her sister Millicent, Davies, who later founded Girton College for women in Cambridge, declared: "It is clear what has to be done. I must devote myself to securing higher education while you (Elizabeth) open the medical profession for women. After these things are done, we must set about getting the vote." Millicent, thirteen at the time, was given the suffrage portfolio.
Garrett's resolve to study medicine was virtually unheard of at the time. Many considered it indecent, and she was refused admission to medical school, forced to study anatomy privately and disallowed from sitting examinations at London University and the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons. Eventually the Society of Apothecaries allowed her to enter for the Licence of Apothecaries' Hall, which she obtained on 28 September, 1865. This entitled her to have her name entered on the medical register, the second woman after Elizabeth Blackwell, and the first woman qualified in Britain to do so.
Illustration: Breaking up of the Blue Stocking Club, Thomas Rowlandson, 1915
Elizabeth Garrett, her sister Millicent Fawcett and campaigner for women's rights in education, Emily Davies, all belonged to the so-called Blue Stocking Club, a group of women who, in the latter half of the 19th century sought to improve the lot of women by campaigning for access to education, healthcare and the right to vote. "Bluestocking" was a scathing reference to the frumpy appearance of feminists and female academics who favoured unfashionable clothing like cheap blue knitted stockings. Rowlandson's satirical print is meant to expose the true nature of these woman who, left to their own devices end up assaulting one another instead of calmly discussing society over tea. The overturned bottle of French Cream in the foreground alludes to the influence of French culture, regarded by the British as artificial and morally dangerous, especially to women.