The Sole Society, a Family History Society researching Sole, Saul, Sewell, Solley and similar names



from Diana Kennedy


 This article was originally published in the August 2010 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society


Dr Lucy Ellen Sewall


Dr Lucy Ellen Sewall was born 9th April 1837 in Massachusetts, the daughter of Dr Samuel Edward Sewall and Louisa M nee Winslow.


Lucy Ellen was a physician and activist for health and social reform in Boston. She was one of the earliest women to get a US Medical degree and to pursue her medical studies in Europe.


In 1856 The New England female Medical College had been founded, followed in 1862 by the opening of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, by Dr Marie Zakrzewska, 1829-1902). Lucy Ellen Sewall became a resident physician at the New England Hospital from 1863 to 1869, before taking over from Marie Zakrzewska.


Not only did she undertake patient care in the dispensary, she handled the management of the hospital, and also instructed students. Her social position and medical competence helped to gain acceptance for other women doctors and for the New England hospital in its formative years.


She continued to serve the hospital as an attending physician until her health failed in 1888, she died 13th February 1890.


As a leader in the Women’s Medical Movement in America, Lucy Ellen and the movement were influential with British women in the British medical movement and their struggle to gain medical training. One of those early pioneers was Sophia Jex-Blake.


Sophia Jex-Blake was born in Brighton in 1840. In 1859 she was offered a teaching position at Queen’s College. When her father discovered she was to be paid he was horrified and would only permit her to accept the position on condition that she refused the salary. Sophia then travelled to the US where she met Lucy Sewall. Sophia worked in the Hospital as an administrator but became convinced that she wanted to study medicine.


She moved to back to Edinburgh in 1869 to attempt to study medicine there with four other women. Finally defeated by Edinburgh she gained her MD in Berne, Switzerland in 1877. Returning to Britain she decided to lease a house in Edinburgh and work in General Practice and as a visiting physician to the Edinburgh Hospital for Women and Children until her retirement in 1899. She then moved back to Sussex where she died in 1912. 


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