Isabel Thorne

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Isabel Jane Thorne (1834 - 1910) was an early campaigner for medical education for women.

Born Isabel Jane Pryer on the 22nd of September 1834[1] in London, she married Joseph Thorne, a tea merchant, and went to live in Shanghai. They are believed to have had five children, including: Isobel (born 1860; became an art student), Mary (born 1861, who became a surgeon after supporting her mother in her campaigns); and Dr. Atwood Thorne, Surgeon to the London Throat Hospital.

Thorne became convinced of the need for women to have female doctors for themselves and their children, especially women living in China and India. When the family returned to England in the late 1860s she started a midwifery training at the Female Medical College in London. Soon she responded to Sophia Jex-Blake's advertisement calling for women to join her in an attempt to qualify as doctors at Edinburgh University and so Thorne became one of the Edinburgh Seven. During this time, she won first prize in an anatomy examination.

After their attempt to graduate in medicine was blocked, Thorne was one of the women who "re-grouped" at the London School of Medicine for Women. Her diplomatic temperament meant she was a more acceptable honorary secretary than Jex-Blake whose nomination had threatened to stir up controversy. Thorne gave up her own ambition to be a doctor in order to commit herself to helping the school run smoothly and become more solidly established. She kept records and wrote an account of these years which was published in 1905 as Sketch of the Foundation and Development of the London School of Medicine for Women. In 1908 her daughter, the surgeon Mary Thorne who had graduated from the LSMW in 1895, succeeded her as honorary secretary.[citation needed]


Isabel Thorne died at home in Harley Street, London, in October 1910. Her ashes were interred in Southover churchyard, Lewes.