Louisa Aldrich-Blake

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Louisa Aldrich-Blake
Louisa Aldrich-Blake.jpg
Born Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake
(1865-08-15)15 August 1865
Died 28 December 1925(1925-12-28) (aged 60)
Nationality British
Occupation Surgeon

Dame Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake, DBE (15 August 1865 – 28 December 1925)[1][2][3] was one of the first British women to enter the world of medicine. Born in Chingford, Essex, the oldest daughter of the curate. Aldrich-Blake was a graduate from Royal Free Hospital in 1893. She obtained her Master of Surgery and was a lead surgeon by 1910.[3] Aldrich-Blake volunteered often during the First World War. She was also one of the first people to perform on rectal and cervical cancers.[4] For all of her commitment during her career, Louisa Aldrich-Blake has a statue of her in Tavistock Square, London close to her alma mater.[4]

Memorial in Tavistock Square.
Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake, portrait by Harry Herman Salomon commissioned by Henry Wellcome.


Louisa Aldrich-Blasé was born in Chingford, Essex to Revd. Frederick James Aldrich-Blake and Louisa Blake Morrison,[3][5] she moved with her family to Welsh Bicknor during her childhood and maintained a home in the town until she passed. She graduated from the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine for Women in 1893. She went on to take the University of London's higher degrees in Medicine and Surgery, becoming the first British woman to obtain the degree of Master of Surgery. Throughout her career, Aldrich-Blake was associated with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital,[3] becoming senior surgeon in 1910. Although she had a professional practice, Aldrich-Blake never received a sizable salary for her work. Her character proved to be all-important in her duty as a military surgeon during the First World War.


Louisa Aldrich-Blake began her college education at Cheltenham Ladies' College. She graduated with first-class honors from the London School of Medicine for Women by 1894 with a Bachelors of Science, Bachelors of Medicine and a Medical Degree. Upon graduating from the University of London with her acquired Medical Degree, Louisa followed with a masters in surgery a year later.[4]


The new Dr. Louisa Aldrich-Blake began working at the New Hospital for Women and Children in London. She worked her way up to become the lead surgeon while also working at the city's Royal Free Hospital.[4] At the Royal Free Hospital, she was the first woman to hold the post of surgical registrar in 1895 and also acted as an anesthetist, in which she dispensed anesthetics to her patients. Her position as consulting surgeon started in 1919 and ended when she died in 1925 at the Royal Free Hospital as well as the Canning Town Women's Settlement Hospital, 1897-1920.[4] During the First World War, many of the male surgical staff were deployed on foreign active service and Dr. Aldrich-Blake took on increased responsibility for the surgery, becoming consulting surgeon to the hospital. Aldrich-Blake spent multiple holidays aiding the military hospitals in 1914 to 1916, specifically in France with Dr. Frances Ivens from the Anglo-French Red Cross Hospital and helped out as a visiting surgeon at the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Hospital.[3] Aldrich-Blake was nicknamed by her patients, "Madame la Générale". Her time was also spent contacting other females in the profession to organize volunteer units.[4] She approached every woman on the Medical Register to ask if they would consider volunteering for the Royal Army Medical Corps, and 48 enrolled, many of whom were sent to Malta.[6] She was the first to perform operations for cervical and rectal cancers. She led the British surgeons in taking on the Wertheim operation for carcinoma of the cervix.[4] Aldrich-Blake added a piece to the Practitioner's Encyclopedia of Midwifery and Diseases of Women named "Pain as a symptom of pelvic trouble" and a piece on "Abdomino-perineal excision of the rectum by a new method" in the British Medical Journal in 1903[7] She held a chair position as a vice-president of the Section of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1924 that was a part of the British Medical Association.


Aldrich-Blake was devoted to training students of the Royal Free Hospital's School of Medicine for Women, her own alma mater. She became Vice-Dean in 1906 and Dean of the School in 1914.[3] Aldrich-Blake's encouragement for women to join the medical field increased the school's population by almost double during the First World War.[3]


Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake died on 28 December 1925 from cancer. Aldrich-Blake passed away at home after being surrounded by surgeries in her last weeks. St. Pancras Church, in London, celebrated her life on 1 January 1926 and her ashes were transferred back to her home in Welsh Bicknor.[3]


In the year of her death, Aldrich-Blake was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire on the New Year's Honours List in 1925.[1][8] The Dame Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake Collection is located in the Royal Free Hospital's Archives Centre. A statue of her is in Tavistock Square, London.[4] The accomplished British surgeon's career was highlighted in a 2015 exhibit specifically related to her actions in the First World War. Louisa's dedication to help others led her to performing surgeries on the front line and encouraging other women to join the field. Aldrich-Blake also influenced the War Office to allow women to enlist to be a part of the medical staff.[9]


  1. ^ a b Staff (30 December 1925). "Distinguished woman surgeon. Death of Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake". Gloucester Citizen – via The British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ Staff (8 March 1926). "Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake's Will". Gloucester Citizen – via The British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "OU Libraries Authentication Service". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-30367. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h "Women in medicine: Wendy Reid and Louisa Aldrich-Blake". RCP London. Royal College of Physicians. 3 October 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2018. 
  5. ^ "Baptism Register for Chingford". Baptism Register for Chingford 1842-1866, WF/C83/2 RBp 2, p 96. 
  6. ^ Brock, Claire (2017). British women surgeons and their patients, 1860-1918. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. pp. 258–260. ISBN 9781316911921. OCLC 978293838. 
  7. ^ "OU Libraries Authentication Service". www.jstor.org.ezproxy.lib.ou.edu. Retrieved 2018-04-25. 
  8. ^ London Gazette Issue 33007, published on 30 December 1924
  9. ^ "Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake: Britain's First Female Surgeon". Science Museum Blog. Retrieved 2018-04-24. 

External links[edit]