Frances Hoggan was the first Welsh woman to qualify as a medical doctor and a leading figure in the campaign to improve girls' education in Wales in the early 1880s. Born as Frances Morgan in Brecon on 20 December 1843, she was the eldest of five children of Georgiana Catherina (née Philipps) and Richard Morgan, curate of St. John's Priory, Brecon. She grew up Aberafan and, following her father's death in 1851, the family moved to Cowbridge where Morgan began her education. She then attended schools in Windsor (1853), Paris (1858) and Düsseldorf (1861).
On her return to Britain in 1866, Frances Morgan embarked on her medical career. With the aim to become a Licentiate of Apothecaries' Hall she received private medical tuition in London from Dr Elizabeth Garrett (later Garrett Anderson), who in 1863 became the first British-trained woman on the General Medical Council's register. But soon after Morgan passed the preliminary examinations in 1867, the council of the Apothecaries' Society excluded from its licensure those who had received private medical school instruction.
Unable to complete her medical training in Britain, Frances Morgan commenced a medical course at Zürich University in the autumn of 1867. She quickly earned the respect of the staff and her fellow students for her determination and 'self-possession'. When a professor of anatomy raised objections to the inclusion of a woman in the class, Morgan reportedly replied, 'Herr Professor, it is much more shocking and improper to make exceptions here. We wish to study the subject without restrictions of any kind' (Forel, p.56). Frances Morgan defended her thesis on the 14 March 1870 before more than 400 spectators, becoming the second female medical graduate from Zürich University and the first British woman to gain a European MD degree. Her thesis on progressive muscular atrophy differed from the published conclusions of her supervisor, Anton Biermer: Morgan argued that it was an organic disease of the central nervous system not, as Biermer claimed, a muscular disease. After her graduation, Morgan undertook clinical training in Vienna, Prague and Paris.
By the close of 1870, Morgan had established herself in private practice at 13 Granville Place, London. In March 1871, she was also appointed by Elizabeth Garrett Anderson as the first assistant physician to St Mary's Dispensary for Women and Children, and then to its successor, the New Hospital for Women, the following year - a post she held until 1878.
Frances Morgan married fellow physician George Hoggan (1837-1891) on 1 April 1874 and for the next decade they ran a joint practice in London. Frances Hoggan, as she was thereafter known, published extensively alongside her husband on a range of topics including on the anatomy and physiology of lymph glands.
Despite being a practising physician for seven years, it was not until 1877 that Frances Hoggan's name was included on the Medical Register. She received her licence from the King and Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland, which was the first examining body to open its licentiate examinations to women. In 1875 Hoggan was elected to the British Medical Association, shortly after Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became the first female member in 1873. However, an exclusionary clause was introduced in 1878 prohibiting the admission of further women; while Garrett Anderson's membership was still considered legal, Hoggan's was reversed because of a legal technicality.
While steadfast in her support for improvement in women's legal, educational and economic position, she often differed from her contemporaries in her opinion of how to achieve these goals. For example, George Hoggan studied medicine at Edinburgh University at the same time that a group of women led by Sophia Jex-Blake fought a four year campaign to gain admission to clinical teaching. He labelled himself, 'one of the most devoted servants and supporters of the cause of medical women at that time' (Hoggan, 'Women in Medicine', p.72). However Frances and George Hoggan were later critical of Jex-Blake's confrontational tactics to obtain a medical education, citing instead the uneventful but real progress made by those such as Frances Hoggan. Between 1881 and 1885, Hoggan was also involved in the campaign for medical women in India and argued for priority to be given to opening medical schools for Indian women. This caused contention with some of her contemporaries who were raising funds to recruit and send British women doctors to India.
Frances Hoggan remained in the public eye through her involvement in a wide range of political and social reform campaigns. In 1871 she founded the National Health Society with Elizabeth Blackwell to promote sanitary education. From the mid-1870s, the Hoggans were prominent anti-vivisection campaigners and in 1875 were founding members of Cobbe's Victoria Street Society for the Protection of Animals Liable to Vivisection. However they both resigned in 1878 when the society adopted a policy committed to total abolition of all animal experiments, rather than solely painful experiments. Frances Hoggan was also a supporter of women's suffrage, wrote on the benefits of swimming for women's health, and travelled to Berlin on behalf of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women.
Although she lived in England for the majority of her adult life and had little else to do with the affairs of her native country, Hoggan was a central figure in the campaign to improve the education of girls in Wales. In 1880 she was one of the four women invited to give evidence to the Aberdare Committee, which was appointed to enquire into the condition of intermediate and higher education in Wales. She published her recommendations in Education for Girls in Wales in 1882, alongside a series of letters which appeared in the Western Mail and South Wales Daily News. In these she advocated coeducation, as well as equal access to scholarships for women at Jesus College, Oxford. Though she supported the use of Welsh language in teaching, she promoted this to further pupils' understanding of English, rather than to promote the language per se. Hoggan's involvement in the campaign accorded with her belief that better education provision would enable middle-class women to gain economic independence and, in doing so, raise the cultural standards of the nation. Her prominent role in this campaign also earned her the admiration of John Gibson, a prominent supporter of women's rights and editor and owner of the Cambrian News. Subsequent historians of Wales have also seen her as 'one of the leading feminist pioneers of Victorian Wales' (Evans, p.100). After a letter of support to the Association for Promoting the Education of Girls in Wales in 1886, Hoggan appears to have played no further role in Wales's education scene.
In 1885 the Hoggans moved to France, owing to the ill health of George Hoggan. Following the death of her husband on 17 May 1891, Frances Hoggan focused her energy on social issues abroad. She visited American civil rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois at Atlanta University in 1907 and later that year, at the age of 65, she set sail for South Africa. In 1911 she spoke at the Universal Race Congress in London.
Frances Hoggan lived her final years in Brighton, where she died in a nursing home on 5 February 1927. Her cremated remains were buried with her husband's at Woking cemetery on 9 February.
In 2016 the Learned Society of Wales established the Frances Hoggan Medal to be awarded annually to recognise the contribution of outstanding women connected with Wales in the areas of science, medicine, engineering, technology or mathematics.
Published date: 2016-11-04
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Born at Brecon, 20 December 1843; her father was Richard Morgan, son of Robert Morgan of Henry's Mote, Pembrokeshire, who graduated from Jesus College, Oxford, in 1830 (Foster, Alumni Oxonienses), and was at the time curate of S. John's, Brecon; her mother was a Philipps of Cwmgwili, Carmarthenshire. Morgan became vicar of Aberavon in 1845, but died in 1851.
Elizabeth, educated on the continent, decided to enter the medical profession, but found the London medical schools closed to her sex, and had to go to Zürich, where she took her M.D. in 1870 - the first British woman to receive a Continental degree in medicine, and the second woman graduate of Zürich. She began to practise (as a specialist in diseases of women and children) in London. She married (1874) George Hoggan, a medical man, and published a large number of medical papers in scientific journals here and abroad. She died in 5 February 1927.
Published date: 1959
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