Women's Week at QMSU

As we celebrate Women’s Week this year, we want to remember all of the women in society who have been particularly influential or inspiring and recognise the work they have done to progress, improve or fight for women’s rights. Your Women’s Reps Sama and Lily have selected some inspiring and influential women they would like to acknowledge during this time. At the Students’ Union hub there are some exhibition stands showcasing the work of some of the most influential women in society, selected by Sama. These women include Emmeline Pankhurst, Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai. Over at BL we are showcasing some influential women from the school of Medicine and Dentistry who your Women’s Rep Lily feels have been particular influential. Please go and have a read of these exhibits!

In February, Britain celebrated 100 years since Women first received the vote. 1918 was an iconic moment in British history as prior to the passing of the Representation of the People Act, women were not eligible to vote. The passing of this act meant that some women over the age of 30 were able to vote, something which had never been able to occur before. We must not forget that the passing of this act only occurred due to years of women in the Suffragette movement fighting for these rights. 

There are many other women from Barts and the London and Queen Mary who we felt needed to be showcased so we wanted to mention them below:

Queen Mary

Mary Slater (alumna attended QM 1959-1962)

Mary Slater attended Queen Mary College from 1959 until 1962, and graduated with a 2:1 in English. Born in Crickhowell, South Wales, she ventured a long way to attend QM. Whilst at University she was Union secretary and later was elected as Secretary of the University of London Student Union. 

Slater had an interesting career after graduating. The first major one was as an academic administrator at the University of Sussex from 1964-1968. Her second career was with the National Health Service working from 1969-1997. Having followed a graduate training scheme she held a number of jobs during this time, her last of which was as a manager of the Artificial Limb and Appliance service for Wales.

In 1998, her third career in the voluntary sector began with a contract as an Out of School Childcare Clubs co-ordinator in a women's economic development organisation in the voluntary sector. The one year extended to three. By 2001, the new Welsh Assembly was looking to engage with a range of people in Wales, particularly women. The Wales Women's National Coalition was funded to employ a small number of staff and she became the first manager in 2001. She retired in 2006. 

Slater is currently the delegate from Wales to the European Women's Lobby, and she has returned to education to pursue an Msc in Equality and Diversity at Cardiff University.

Ching-He Huang (alumna attended 1996-1999)

Ching-He was born and grew up in Taiwan. Her family also spent some time living in South Africa before they moved to London when she was 12. Ching-He's older brother attended QM in 1997, and encouraged her to attend as well. 

During her degree, she spent a semester at the Bocconi Business School in Milan as part of the Erasmus exchange programme. During this time she gained a greater understanding of business, marketing, management skills and international financial markets.

When she returned to London, she noticed and became frustrated by the lack of good healthy and quick foods. She spoke with the local buyer for a branch of Europa Foods, who helped Ching-He turn her frustration into an innovative idea. After she finished her final exams she began experimenting- cooking fresh noodles with prawns, chicken and bean sprouts. After dishes were sampled she got agreement for a small and regular consignment of freshly prepared noodle dishes. This resulted in starting up her own company, Fuge Foods.

In addition to her business, Ching now has her own television programme Ching's Kitchen on UK Food and been on other programmes such as BBC's Saturday Kitchen, ITV's Saturday and Daily Cooks. Ching has also published China Modern: 100 cutting-edge, fusion style recipes for the 21st century and has written in numerous food columns. 

Minnie Stewart Rhodes James (People's Palace Librarian, 1880's)

Minnie James (1865-1903) was appointed Assistant Librarian at the People's Palace for East London in 1887. Two years later, in 1889, she became head librarian. 

Opened in 1887, The People's Palace provided technical training and recreation for the people of East London. It eventually become part of what Queen Mary University of London is today.

Minnie worked to build the collections of the People's Palace Library. She tried to accommodate the library's working-class clientele by providing adequate opening times and by acquiring novels and light reading.

She is also recognised for her work to promote librarianship as a profession for women.

Dr Peggy Holmes (French Lecturer and Dean of Women Students 1949-1982)

Peggy Holmes studied French at Queen Mary College and graduated in 1949. After this she became Lecturer in French. 

Peggy was also Warden of Lynden Women’s Residential Hall from 1951-1953. After this she became Dean of Women Students in 1965. 

From 1951 until she retired in 1982, she was Student Counsellor and Co-ordinator of Counselling Services. 

She died in 2007 and many students and colleagues were very fond of her. In her will, Holmes left a generous legacy of £75,000 to the College, which will be used to support student activities in years to come.

Joan Hatfield (alumna attended 1937-1940)

Joan was born in Dersingham, Norfolk. In 1930 she won a scholarship and attended Kings Lynn High School. Two years later she won another scholarship after she took her Maths and English exams. 

When Joan was 16 she was interested in studying Mathematics at University. After being told it would be difficult to win a scholarship she really applied herself to her studies. She hadn't expected to win a scholarship but managed to win a county scholarship worth £120 a year, which enabled her to pursue her aspirations. She went on to study at Queen Mary College and completed her degree in 1940. 

Her student days weren't easy. Her mother died at the end of her first year and she was one of the QMC students who were evacuated to Cambridge during the Second World War. She spent her last year of University at Girton College, Cambridge.

After graduating, Joan attended the Institute of Education and trained as a teacher. She was evacuated again but to Nottingham this time. Whilst there she met her future husband Percy Hatfield- he was studying Physics. Joan taught at a grammar school in Yorkshire after she qualified. 

Percy and Joan got married in 1942 slightly earlier than planned as Percy was being stationed overseas in India. Joan carried on teaching for the three years Percy was in India. 

When the pair started a family in 1945, Joan carried on teaching part time. In 1964 Percy took a post in Germany. Whilst living there Joan taught English and studied German. From 1972 they spent five years in the United States.

When they returned to England, Percy retired and Joan taught at a local language school in Devon. Joan became a Carer for her husband before he died. When Joan was 85 she sailed down the west coast of South America, and stopped in Peru. She then visited the Antarctic, something which was a lifelong ambition. 

Barts and the London

Dr Elizabeth Garrett-Anderson (LHMC alumna)

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) was born in Whitechapel, educated at home and at a boarding school for ladies in Blackheath. She was the first British woman to qualify as a doctor, a pioneer in the medical education of women and a feminist campaigner. Anderson was a member of the Langham Place Group and a member of the suffragette movement.

Anderson's interests led her to become a doctor although she struggled to find a place to study. Between 1863-1864, she studied dissection and anatomy at The London Hospital Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917) was the first British woman to qualify as a doctor, a pioneer in the medical education of women and a feminist campaigner. 

Anderson founded the London Hospital for Women in 1872 which was staffed entirely by women. She went on to become Dean of the London School of Medicine for Women in 1883, which she founded with other pioneering women doctors, including Sophia Jex-Blake, Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell.

Elizabeth Blackwell (Barts Alumna)

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910), was admitted to train at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College under Dr James Paget in 1850. She became the first qualified woman doctor to be listed on the Medical Register in 1859. 

She was born in Bristol, but emigrated with her family to America in 1831. She spent many years in Europe and Britain throughout her life, including her time training and working in London.

During the mid-1840s she worked as a teacher, but realised that her true ambition was to become a doctor. This ambition was based on several reasons, but mainly from the experiences of one of her friends who was apprehensive about consulting a male doctor. This resulted in her friend's uterine cancer reaching advanced stages due to receiving no treatment.

Trying to become a doctor wasn't easy. She was given the suggestion to dress as a man as she might find a way to study in Paris this way. Blackwell felt this was immoral so didn't do it. Instead, she engaged in independent study whilst applying to medical schools, but received rejections from them all. Finally, in 1847, a small medical school at Geneva in New York State accepted her as a student. She was the only woman student, and though her male colleagues did not take her very seriously, she graduated in 1849 at the top of her year, above all 150 of the male students.


In 1850, she was admitted to train as a doctor at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, and was given access to all departments, except, ironically, the one for women. Following her training at Barts and several years working in New York, London and elsewhere, she became the first woman doctor to be listed on the Medical Register in 1859.

Blackwell was an advocate of medical care for women by women, and she actively promoted medical education for women throughout her life. Blackwell helped to found the London School of Medicine for Women with several other pioneering women doctors, including her sister, Emily Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Sophia Jex-Blake. 

Dr Jean Edwards (London Dental School, LHMC alumna)

Jean Edwards entered The London Dental School in 1950, and was amongst the first women to qualify as a dentist. 

She studied dental surgery, orthodontics and dental prosthetics. She was awarded the BDS degree in 1954, and completed her training in 1955. 

During the 1940s, there was a shortage of trained dentists, and The London Dental School welcomed the University's decision to admit women on equal terms as men. More women entered dentistry, and made important contributions to the field.

Dr Dorothy Waterfield (LHMC alumna)

Dorothy Waterfield began her medical training at The London Hospital Medical College in January 1920. 

She was amongst the women students who were permitted to become medical students at The London due to the shortage in doctors between 1918 and 1922. 

By July 1928, she was appointed as Dental Anaesthetist and worked with Mr S.G. Allen in 1929 to treat 20 or more children undergoing extractions under general anaesthetic.

Dr Olive Gwendoline Potter (LHMC alumna)

Olive Gwendoline Potter (1895-1988) was admitted to study medicine at The London Hospital Medical College just after the First World War. 

She was amongst the women students who were permitted to become medical students at The London due to the shortage in doctors at that time.

She went on to practice as a Doctor in Surrey, and wrote a number of children’s books under the pseudonym Josephine Elder.

All information is taken from: