Alice Stewart Ker

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Alice Stewart Ker
Born (1853-12-02)2 December 1853
Deskford, Banffshire, Scotland
Died 20 March 1943(1943-03-20) (aged 89)
Education Berne and King's and Queen's College of Physicians
Occupation Physician
Known for 13th woman in the UK to be on the British Medical Association register, suffragette

Alice Stewart Ker or Alice Jane Shannan Ker MRCPI (2 December 1853 – 20 March 1943) was a Scottish physician, health educator, and suffragette. She was the 13th woman on the registry of the British Medical Association.[1]


Alice Jane Shannan Ker was born on 2 December 1853 at Deskford in Banffshire, Scotland, the eldest of the nine children of Margaret Millar Stevenson (1826–1900), daughter of James Cochran Stevenson, Liberal MP for South Shields, and Reverend William Turnbull Ker (1824–1885), a Free Church minister.[1][2] At the age of 18 she moved to Edinburgh to study "University Classes for Ladies" including anatomy and physiology. While in Edinburgh she met Sophia Jex-Blake, who was campaigning to have the University issue medical degrees to women. When Jex-Blake's petition was rejected by the University Ker left Edinburgh to complete her medical training in Ireland where she was awarded her licentiateship from the King and Queen's College of Physicians of Ireland. After completing her training she returned to Edinburgh sharing a practice with Jex-Blake for a year.[3] She was the 13th woman to be registered as a doctor in Britain.[4]

Ker then undertook further studies for a year in Berne, Switzerland, funded by her campaigning aunts Flora and Louisa Stevenson.[5] When she returned to Britain she worked as a house surgeon at the Children's Hospital in Birmingham, and from there became a general practitioner in Leeds.[3] In 1887 she returned to Edinburgh working as a self-employed doctor, and taking the Royal College of Surgeons Conjoint Examinations, one of only two woman in that year to pass the finals. She married her cousin Edward Stewart Ker (1839-1907) in 1888 and they moved to Birkinhead.[3] Together they had two daughters Margaret Louise (born 1892) and Mary Dunlop (born 1896); their son died in infancy.[1][6] Her practice was in Birkenhead, the only woman doctor in the area. It was successful and she had many additional duties having become the medical officer to female staff working at the Post Office as well as the Honorary Medical Officer to the Wirral Hospital for Sick Children, the Wirral Lying-In Hospital, the Birkenhead Rescue Home and the Caledonian Free Schools in Liverpool.[1][3] She also gave talks and lectures to working-class women in Manchester on topics of sexuality, birth control and motherhood. These talks were published in 1891 work, Motherhood: A Book for Every Woman.

In 1893 Ker became involved in the Birkenhead and Wirral Women's Suffrage Society, and after her husband's death in 1907 her interest in women's suffrage became an increasing priority for her.[3] She became chair of the local Suffrage Society but finding them too moderate, in 1907 she joined the more progressive Women's Social and Political Union.[6] In March 1912 she was imprisoned after being among 200 women breaking windows at Harrods Department store, an action organised by the Women's Social and Political Union. She was force fed whilst in Holloway prison, and as result she was released with ill health before the end of her two-month sentence.[1][3] Ker was still working as a doctor but she was asked to leave one hospital. She moved to Liverpool.[4]

She joined the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and took a pacifist line during the First World War. She worked in London up to and during the Second World War.

Ker was a vegetarian and anti-vivisectionist.[1] She died on 20 March 1943.[6]


In 1891 she published Motherhood: A Book for Every Woman.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ewan, Elizabeth; Innes, Sue; Reynolds, Siân; Pipes, Rose, eds. (2006). Ker, Alice Jane Shannan Stewart. The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 193–194. ISBN 9780748632930.
  2. ^ Cowman, Krista. Ker, Alice Jane Shannan Stewart (1853–1943), doctor and suffragette | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/63874.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "BILLINGHURST, Rosa May (1875-1953) and KER, Dr Alice (1853-1943): ( Autograph Letter Collection)". AIM25. 1970-12-19. Retrieved 2017-10-06.
  4. ^ a b Alice Ker, Spartacus Educational, Retrieved 5 October 2017
  5. ^ Elizabeth Crawford (2 September 2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Routledge. pp. 842–. ISBN 1-135-43401-8.
  6. ^ a b c Alice Stewart Ker, OxfordDNB, Retrieved 5 October 2017