Margaret Buchanan was the first Vice-President of the Association of Women Pharmacists. She later became its President.
Margaret Elizabeth Buchanan registered as a Chemist and Druggist in 1886, having served her apprenticeship with her father, and subsequently with Isabella Clarke- Keer and her husband. She was appointed Dispenser to the Westminster General Infirmary. She was clearly an extremely talented pharmacist: the only female student at the time at the Pharmaceutical Society's School of Pharmacy to take double honours in its exams and the first woman to be awarded its Silver Medal. She recognised that what aspiring female pharmacists needed was an opportunity to gain training in running a business. In 1892, she wrote that "it is becoming recognised by the public and the trade that women can be both business-like and well-trained scientifically, the number of lady-pharmacists will doubtless increase as the field further opens up."
The opportunity to try to make a difference came when a pharmacy at number 17 The Pavement, Clapham Common became available. Between 1911 and 1914, the Registers of the Pharmaceutical Society do not give up any information about the ownership of 17 The Pavement. However, from other evidence, this seems to be the point when Margaret Buchanan bought the business, as a training pharmacy for women. However, she didn't use number 17 as her registered address until 1920.
In addition to her involvement in the foundation of the Association of Women Pharmacists in 1905, she also founded the Gordon Hall School of Pharmacy for Women, which grew from a group of private pupils that she took in a house she owned in Gordon Square from the same year. Once she had the pharmacy at The Pavement, all of her pupils at Gordon Hall also worked in Clapham, three in the morning and three in the afternoon, to gain practical experience. She also taught female medical students as Lecturer on Pharmacy at the London School of Medicine for Women.
Miss Buchanan was the first female member of the Society's Council, being elected in 1918 and retiring in 1926. "The consternation that arose in certain quarters is one of those things not easily forgotten" according to a contemporary writing in 1940. She was described by The Chemist and Druggist of 1909 as holding "the front rank among the women pharmacists of the British Empire. She is...a quiet yet effective speaker."
Margaret Buchanan retired to Dartmouth in 1924. She died on 1st January 1940.
Image top: Margaret Buchanan
Image middle: 17 The Pavement, Clapham Common