‘The Edinburgh Seven, 1870’ by Sarah Spence

The good doctors at the university diagnose
something pathological, an infection threatening
to spread through the educational system: women.
Seven medical students, petitioning for admission.

Well, we win, and relocating to Edinburgh
we matriculate as ladies, taking a thin tenement
on Buccleuch Place  — our feminine headquarters
in these narrow Old Town streets. We travel together,
to lecture theatres and classrooms, on paths
not made for us.

The men in opposition refuse to share their training.
They sabotage our anatomy exam — a feverish gathering
howling in the November weather, throwing rubbish,
mud, dirty words, slamming the Surgeons’ Hall gates.
Closing off our route like a tourniquet turned tight.

But we Seven against Edinburgh refuse to be cowed
and steady as skilled surgeons cut through the crowd.


Sarah Spence is a postgraduate student at the University of Glasgow, specialising in the Medical Humanities and contemporary literature. Her poetry and short fiction appear in Thistle Magazine, From Glasgow to Saturn, Gilded Dirt and Qmunicate, with nonfiction work in AvenueQmunicate and theGIST. She writes about health, science, history, and our relationship with animals and the ‘natural.’ 


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