Women pharmacists before the 20th century

Women have always been involved in the production and administration of medicines.  However, in the history of the Pharmaceutical Society, the status of female pharmacists was not explicit from the start.

When Elizabeth Garrett (afterwards Mrs Elizabeth Garrett Anderson) attended lectures at the Society’s School of Pharmacy in the 1860s, the Society’s Council responded by passing a resolution prohibiting women in the school.

223 female pharmacists on the first
Register in 1869
(1.9% of 11,638 in total)

The Pharmacy Act of 1868 required all practising pharmacists to register with the Society.  Most of the 223 women in the first compulsory Register of 1869 had qualified for inclusion because they had been in business before August 1 1868. It was not particularly unusual for women to take over businesses established by their fathers or husbands.

The "petticoat peril" -
X- Rayser, The Chemist and Druggist,
October 28 1905

If the inclusion of women on the 1869 Register provoked any comment, it was not recorded.   Women took the Society’s exams alongside their male counterparts (although they were not eligible for the prizes, or to work in the Society’s chemical laboratories). Fanny Deacon (nee Potter) of Fleckney, Leicestershire was the first woman to pass the "Modified" exam after the 1868 Act.  Alice Vickery was the first woman to qualify as a Chemist and Druggist by passing the Society’s Minor exam in June 1873. However, women were not permitted to become members.  They could work as pharmacists, but had no rights in the Society and therefore no role to play in the regulation of the profession.