Foundation of the Association of Women Pharmacists

LDRPS:SZ140 Deane and Co Chemists run by Margaret Buchanan, First Vice President of the Association of Women PharmacistsOn Thursday 15 June 1905, a group of women pharmacists met at 5 Endsleigh Street in London to establish an Association of Women Pharmacists. The group’s objectives would be to discuss questions relating to women’s employment, establish a locum register and register of all qualified women, as well as the "furtherance of social intercourse".

50 women joined immediately, making Isabella Clarke-Keer the Association’s first President, with Margaret Buchanan as Vice President. Members had to hold one of the Society’s certificates and pay a membership fee of five shillings if they were a Society member, or 10 shillings if not.

This first meeting, described in the Chemist & Druggist as "a meeting both historical and novel", focused on the problems of women trying to find pharmacy employment.  Although women could now become members of the Pharmaceutical Society, there were still concerns about the availability of suitable employment for them, and the conditions under which they were expected to work.

Margaret Buchanan

Margaret Buchanan As featured in the Chemist and Druggist published in July 1892

Margaret Elizabeth Buchanan registered as a Chemist and Druggist in 1886 and was then the only female student at the Pharmaceutical Society's School of Pharmacy to take double honours in its exams. She was also the first woman to be awarded its Silver Medal. 

Margaret recognised that aspiring female pharmacists needed 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".

Margaret founded the Gordon Hall School of Pharmacy for Women in 1905. The school grew from a group of private pupils that she took on at her house in Gordon Square. 

Between 1911 and 1914 Margaret bought a business at 17 The Pavement, as a training pharmacy for women. Her pupils at Gordon Hall worked there, three in the morning and three in the afternoon, to gain practical experience.

Margaret was the first female member of the Society's Council when she was elected in 1918, retiring in 1926. The Chemist & Druggist of 1909 described her as holding "the front rank among the women pharmacists of the British Empire.”

Margaret retired to Dartmouth in 1924 and died on 1 January 1940.