Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was an astonishing woman who became England’s first female physician in 1870. Inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s first woman doctor, she decided that she, too, wanted to pursue a career in medicine. This was no mean feat for a woman in the nineteenth century and led her on a challenging path with many barriers but she was determined to succeed.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was unable to study medicine in Britain as medical schools refused to accept female students, but she was accepted in France, at the University of Paris. She chose headache as the subject on which to base her doctoral thesis, which was entitled, “Sur la migraine.” In this she provided a thorough medical overview of migraine, highlighting the pathology of this debilitating disorder as well as migraine treatment options.
Elizabeth Garrett Anderson went on to found a London dispensary for women and children in 1866. This dispensary was later converted into a hospital for women – The New Hospital for Women – staffed entirely by women. In 1918, it was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. She also co-founded a London Medical School for Women. Additionally, she became the first woman mayor in England.
The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Award was established in September 2000 with the aim of honouring these achievements, so extraordinary for a woman of her time. The Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Award has been presented to a woman whose work has made an extraordinary contribution to relieving the burden of those affected by headache. This World Headache Alliance Award is sponsored by an unrestricted educational grant from GlaxoSmithKline. In addition to an engraved award, the recipient has received £10,000 to be donated to the activity or cause of their choice.