Louisa Aldrich-Blake, the subject of today’s Google Doodle, was the UK’s first female surgeon. She played an important role in setting up hospitals in the first world war and pioneered new procedures for treating cervical and rectal cancers.
Aldrich obtained her master of surgery degree from the University of London in 1895. She went on to be the first woman to hold various posts at the New Hospital for Women and Children and the Royal Free Hospital in London. In 1903, she published an article in the British Medical Journal reporting a new procedure for removing cancerous growths from the rectum.
When war broke out in 1914, she led a group of women who established a hospital at Château Tourlaville near Cherbourg, France. In 1916, she wrote to all the women on the medical register and recruited 80 to work in hospitals in Malta, Egypt and Greece. Throughout this time, she did double duty at Royal Free Hospital in London and work in war hospitals in France during her holidays.
She was recognised by being named a Dame in 1925 and died of cancer later that year.
“Miss Aldrich-Blake qualified at a time when opposition to women in the profession was still very marked, and here again she was a source of strength to the cause,” wrote Maud Chadburn, a fellow surgeon, upon her death. “Any work she did was sure to be good; her serenity, equanimity, and self-reliance could stand the jars undisturbed which might have upset the even tenor of work for many people.”
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