Mary Murdoch (Hull)

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Dr Mary Charlotte Murdoch
photograph of Dr Mary Murdoch at work
Mary Murdoch at work
Born(1864-09-26)26 September 1864
Died20 March 1916(1916-03-20) (aged 51)
Cause of deathinfluenza
EducationLondon School of Medicine for Women
Known forfirst female doctor in Hull

Dr Mary Charlotte Murdoch (26 September 1864 – 20 March 1916) was a Scottish born physician and suffragist. She had a lifelong association with Hull where she was the first woman doctor, a suffragist, and car owner.

Early life[edit]

Murdoch was born on 26 September 1864 in Elgin, Scotland, the youngest child of Jane (née Macdonald) and William Murdoch. Her father was a solicitor.[1] She was educated by governesses before attending Weston House School, Elgin, she then attended Manor Mount Girls' Collegiate School in London, after which she received tuition in Lausanne, Switzerland. She returned to Elgin to care for her widowed and invalided mother, who died in 1887. Around this time she discovered what she regarded as the "love of her life", medicine. Her ambition was encouraged by the family doctor, Dr Adams.[2] She studied to be a doctor at the London School of Medicine for Women, funded by money that her mother had left her. While at the School she was curator of its museum.[3] She completed her studies in Scotland and qualified in 1892.[1]

Medical career[edit]

What was Victoria Hospital for Sick Children in Park Street, Hull

In 1893 she began her association with Hull when she became a house surgeon at their Victoria Hospital for Sick Children, which had opened two years previously, in Park Street.[1] In 1894 she joined the British Medical Association.[4] She then went to work at Tottenham Fever Hospital in London in 1895. Illness followed and the following year she was back in Hull as the city's first woman general practitioner.[5]

In 1900 she employed as an assistant, the newly qualified doctor Louisa Martindale. They worked closely together not just as partners in their business. In 1902 they went on a cycling holiday together visiting Vienna, Berlin and Switzerland. They were in partnership until 1906. When she wrote her biography Martindale spent a chapter on their life together.[1]


She founded the Hull Women's Suffrage Society in 1904 and part of the Millicent Fawcett's National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS)[6] but fell out with the group after the national body decided to not support militant methods by any campaigner. Murdoch joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) who had increasingly militant methods.[1] She was still well regarded by Fawcett, and in 1911 she was chosen as Fawcett's representative at International Council of Women in Stockholm.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Murdoch worked hard taking only four or five hours sleep a night but she also enjoyed herself. She was the first woman in Hull to own a car which she drove at speed.[1] One anecdote describes how six men had to put her car back on the road after she had rolled backwards down a hill and her car had caught fire. Murdoch then joked about it with her passenger.[7]

Murdoch joined the Church of England in 1914.

Murdoch died at her home in Kingston upon Hull in 1916 after returning through snow from seeing an emergency patient.[1] Her funeral procession was led by her car.[7] and thousands of mourners. She was cremated and her urn was placed in the Lady Chapel of All Saints church in Hull.[4] Plaques were placed on her home in Park Street in Hull and on what used to be Victoria Hospital.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Katharine Cockin, ‘Murdoch, Mary Charlotte (1864–1916)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2005 accessed 15 Nov 2017
  2. ^ Deborah Brunton (4 September 2004). Health, Disease and Society in Europe, 1800-1930: A Source Book. Manchester University Press. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-0-7190-6739-6.
  3. ^ "MARY CHARLOTTE MURDOCH, L.R.C.P., L.R.C.S.Edin., L.E.P.S.Glasg". British Medical Journal. 1 (2883): 505–506. 1916-04-01. ISSN 0007-1447. PMC 2347149.
  4. ^ a b "Obituary" (PDF). British Medical Journal: 306. April 1916.
  5. ^ a b Elizabeth Crawford (2 September 2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928. Routledge. p. 431. ISBN 1-135-43402-6.
  6. ^ a b "Dr Mary Murdoch". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b Carol Dyhouse (20 March 2006). Students: A Gendered History. Routledge. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-134-24588-8.