Edith Mary Brown

Dame Edith Mary Brown, DBE LRCP (24 March 1864 – 6 December 1956) was an English doctor and medical educator. She founded the Christian Medical College Ludhiana, the first medical training facility for women in Asia, and served as principal of the college for half a century. Brown was a pioneer in the instruction of Indian female doctors and midwives with modern western methods.

Brown was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland in 1864, the fourth of five sisters. Her father died when she was young, and the family moved to London, where her mother was born. She attended Croydon High School. Her older sister was a missionary, which led to Brown developing an interest in medicine and missionary work.

She graduated from Girton College, Cambridge, one of the first women to be admitted to the Honours Degree Examination at the University of Cambridge in 1882. After graduating she studied medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women and in Edinburgh, where she qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1891. The Baptist Missionary Society sent Brown to Bombay, where she arrived on 9 November 1891. Brown was shocked by medical conditions in India and felt a need to educate women, particularly midwives.
At that time by age-long tradition the orthodox Hindu woman would on no account have the services of a medical man, whether trained in modern or in the ancient systems of medicine followed in India; she was dependent for help in her confinement on the services of the superstitious dai or nurse, who was always of low caste and, from a surgical point of view, unbelievably dirty. Trained Indian women doctors or nurses were almost unknown, and throughout the peninsula only one or two women's hospitals existed - The Times, Obituary of Dame Edith Mary Brown, 10 December 1956.
After two years with various missions, Brown set out on her own. In January 1894, a woman in Bristol donated ₤50 (£5,592 today) to help Brown rent an old schoolhouse in Ludhiana, Punjab. She organised a Christian medical training center for women, the North India School of Medicine for Christian Women, starting with four students and four faculty.

The medical school, the first for women in India, grew into a full college with medical, nursing and pharmacy schools, and a hospital with 200 beds. The college was supported by significant grants from the Punjab governments, as well as women's auxiliaries in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow as well as Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand. The school was renamed Christian Medical College Ludhiana in 1911, though it had opened its doors to non-Christians since 1909.

During the partition of British India in 1947, Punjab was split between India and Pakistan, resulting in massacres of thousands in Ludhiana. Many Muslim employees of the college and hospital fled for Pakistan, while Sikh and Hindu refugees arrived over the border. Despite the violence, the college and hospital remained safe from attack. The hospital became an emergency centre for the seriously injured.

By November 1951, on the 50th anniversary of Brown's arrival in India, the college had graduated 411 doctors, 143 nurses, 168 pharmacy dispensers and more than 1,000 midwives. Brown retired as principal in 1952 and moved to Kashmir.

In the 1932 New Year Honours, Brown was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Brown died 6 December 1956 in Srinagar, India, aged 92.

Dame Edith Mary Brown
Dame Edith Mary Brown


Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

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