Women pharmacists become members

A cartoon giving a male point of view published in Chemist and Druggist 1897

The status of women pharmacists did not emerge as a firm political issue until the 1870s. Having passed the Society’s Preliminary exam, Rose Minshull, Louisa Stammwitz, and Alice Hart were put forward at the Council meeting in February 1873 as "registered students" of the Society. The motion was rejected. During 1876 and 1877, Rose Minshull, Alice Hart and Louisa Stammwitz petitioned the Council to allow ladies access to the Society’s chemistry laboratories. This permission was granted in 1877.

"the traditions of centuries are
not easily overthrown"
Letter to The Pharmaceutical Journal
from Charles Fryer,
November 17 1877

The debate over women and Society membership began to reach the pages of The Pharmaceutical Journal and the Chemist and Druggist. The attitudes towards women varied greatly.

Isabella Clarke and Rose Minshull had both passed the Society’s Preliminary, Minor and Major exams. They made repeated applications for membership from 1875 onwards. Isabella Clarke opened her own shop in 1876, but was still denied full membership privileges. Council members only finally agreed that women should become members in 1879. Ironically, some Council members seem to have finally given in to end the debate, or "to avoid further agitation" as one put it, rather than through any widely-held ethical belief that women ought to be allowed equal rights.

The number of women in the pharmaceutical workforce increased, with many working as dispensers in hospitals and other institutions, or as assistants in shops. However, the number of women on the statutory register fell in the late 1800s.

Image top: A cartoon giving a male point of view published in Chemist and Druggist 1897