Into The Archives: International Women's Day | Epsom College
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Into The Archives: International Women’s Day

To mark International Women’s Week we are proud to celebrate the inspirational women of Epsom College who have inspired and motivated those around them over many generations. In particular: Common Room member and Suffragette Violet Toy, pioneering nurse and Epsom College Governor Dame Kathleen Raven, Dr Christine Murrell a force of nature in women’s health and Lady Laetitia Hutchison, M. B, a passionate doctor and College Governor.

Dr Christine Murrell

Murrell was born in 1874 in Clapham, London. She attended Clapham High School for Girls and the London School of Medicine for Women, receiving an MBBS in 1899. Her early career was spent in Northumberland and Liverpool before returning to London to work at the Royal Free Hospital, where she was only the second woman to serve as a house physician.

In 1903, she established a private practice in Bayswater. Murrell received an MD in psychology and mental diseases from the University of London in 1905. From 1907, she led an infant welfare clinic run by the St Marylebone Health Society at Lisson Grove for 18 years.

Murrell was also an activist for women’s rights, and was involved in the women’s suffrage movement before the First World War. During the war, she served in and became chair of the Women’s Emergency Corps. She gave public lectures on women’s health for 20 years at the London County Council, and in 1923 she published a series of lectures under the title Womanhood and Health. In 1925, she and Letitia Fairfield conducted a survey of girls’ experiences of menstruation; the findings were published in The Lancet in 1930.

Murrell served on various committees of the British Medical Association, and in 1924 she became the first woman elected to its Central Council; she sat on the council for nine years, until her death. She was the fifth president of the Medical Women’s Federation, from 1926 to 1928. Dr Murrell represented the Medical Women’s Federation at the first Epsom College Conjoint Committee meeting in 1932. She was the first woman to sit on this committee. In September 1933, she was the first female representative elected to the General Medical Council, but she died on 18 October 1933 before taking her seat.

Kathleen Raven

Kathleen Raven was born and raised in the Lake District, attending Ulverston Grammar School. Her elder brother, Ronald Raven, became a surgeon. Visiting her brother when he was a medical student at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, she decided to become a nurse and started her training there in 1933 and qualified in 1936.

During World War II she was Ward Sister and Night Superintendent in Barts. In 1946 she was appointed Assistant Matron there. In 1949, she was named as Deputy Matron at the General Infirmary in Leeds. She became Matron in the same year, and held the post for eight years. The General Infirmary at Leeds was the first teaching hospital to set up an Assistant Nurse Training Programme in 1955.

In Leeds she was a member of both the General Nursing Council and the Council of the Royal College of Nursing, as Chair of the Yorkshire Branch of the RCN. Raven was also a member of the National Executive Committee of the Association of Hospital Matrons and served as a member of the Leeds Central Area Advisory Board for Secondary Education. For several years she was External Examiner for the Diploma in Nursing at the University of Leeds. In 1957 she became a member of the Central Health Services Council. Raven left Leeds to go to the Department of Health in London, where she became Chief Nursing Officer in July 1958.

After her retirement from the Department of Health in 1972 she became an adviser to a major international health care corporation, travelling extensively in the Middle East and Far East, establishing health care facilities. She worked for the Civil Service Commission and was appointed a Governor of Epsom College. She died at the age of 88 in 1999.

Lady Laetitia Hutchison, M. B

She qualified M.B. London in 1904 and was one of the early band of women medical practitioners. Her first medical post after qualifying took her to act as a locum in the Orkney Islands during the winter months, and this involved being rowed to her patients in an open boat.

In 1905, while resident medical officer at Wycombe Abbey Girls School, she met her future husband, Robert Hutchison, who was then acquiring a reputation in London as a consulting physician, and they were married in that year. She acted for many years as medical officer to Clapham High School for Girls. For a long period she was chairman of the Ladies Guild of the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, and she served as a governor of Epsom College, being actually the sole woman on our governing body at the time of her election. She died in 1964 aged 87.