Dr Frances Hoggan

Frances Hoggan (1843-1927) was a pioneering medical practitioner, researcher and social reformer from Brecon who played a significant role in the battle for women in the UK to study medicine in the nineteenth century.

The Story of Frances Hoggan

Western Mail article - scan

Western Mail article, 21 January 2016 (Click for full size)

Born in Brecon in December 1843, Frances Hoggan (nee Morgan) was the eldest of five children of Richard and Georgiana Morgan. When three, her family moved to the Vale of Glamorgan and after receiving an early education in Cowbridge and Windsor, Hoggan began her European education spending 3 years in Paris and 5 years in Dusseldorf.

Returning to London in 1866 at the age of 23 with the intention of making a career in medicine, Hoggan began her medical studies with private tutors, as women in mid-Victorian Britain were not permitted to become university trained doctors. Undeterred, Hoggan planned to obtain a professional diploma from the Society of Apothecaries, the only qualification at the time that permitted women to practice Medicine throughout England and Wales. Despite successfully completing the preliminary examinations in January 1867, the Council of the Society of Apothecaries passed a resolution excluding women from professional examinations.

Given the restriction on medical education opportunities in Britain, Hoggan went to Europe to secure the required medical qualifications. In 1867, she passed the matriculation examination for Zurich University, the only university in Europe at the time to accept women medical students and subsequently enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine at Zurich University. Her doctoral thesis on progressive muscular dystrophy was considered important in that it challenged the work and views of her academic supervisor. When Hoggan graduated in March 1870, aged only 26, she was only the second woman in Europe to have been awarded a Medical Doctorate, 3 months before Elizabeth Garret Anderson [the first English woman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain)  gained her MD in Paris.

Following graduation, Hoggan went on to conduct post-graduate work at 3 of the foremost medical schools in Europe including Vienna, Prague and Paris, before returning to Britain. On her return, she spend several years as a medical practitioner working with Elizabeth Garrett Anderson at the New Hospital for Women in London, and also cooperated with Dr Elizabeth Blackwell [the first woman from Britain to receive an M.D. degree from an American medical school) to found the National Health Society in 1871 ‘to promote health amongst all classes of the population’. She finally obtained her licentiateship to practice in the UK from The King’s and Queen’s College of Physicians of Ireland in February 1877. In 1880, Hoggan became the first female member (MRCPI) of the renamed Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

In 1874, Frances married Dr George Hoggan and together they established the first husband and wife medical practice in Britain. Between them they published over forty medical research papers in English, German and French, including extensive research on the anatomy and physiology of the lymph glands.

Hoggan herself became a specialist in women’s and children’s diseases.

Hoggan never forgot her Welsh background and become heavily involved during the 1880s in debates concerning intermediate and higher education in Wales, and particularly on the establishment of a system of secondary schools for girls in Wales. Relevant papers at this time included her 1880 paper for the Aberdare committee on “The Present Condition of Intermediate and Higher Education in Wales”. In 1882, she also wrote “Education for Girls in Wales”, an influential paper printed by the Women’s Printing Society.

Following her husband’s death in 1891, Hoggan became more involved in education and social reforms outside the UK and in particular in South Africa, the Middle East, India and the US. She toured the United States and spoke about this issue at the first Universal Race Congress held in London in 1911 whilst also writing articles on this subject, with the most significant of these being “American Negro Women During the First Fifty Years of Freedom” published in 1913.

Frances Hoggan will be the subject of a programme in Welsh women’s history series Mamwlad (Motherland) presented by Ffion Hague.  The third series of Mamwlad will start on S4C on Sunday 6 March at 7.30pm. The episode featuring the life of Frances Hoggan is on Sunday 27 March at 7.30pm. The series can be watched with English subtitles.

Selected Bibliography

Evans, Gareth W., Education & Female Emancipation. The Welsh Experience, 1847–1914 . (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1990)

McIntyre, Neil, ‘Britain’s first medical marriage: Frances Morgan (1843–1927), George Hoggan (1837–1891) and the mysterious ‘‘Elsie’’ Journal of Medical Biography 2004; 12: 105–114

Hoggan, F., Education for girls in Wales (London: : Women’s Printing Society Limited, 1878)

Hoggan F. Physical Education for Girls. London: Swan, Sonnenschein & Allen, 1880 (a lecture given to the Fröbel Society, 9 December 1879).

Hoggan, F. ‘Medical Women For India’ Contemporary Review August 1882, pp 267-275

Hoggan, FE. The Position of the Mother in the Family in its Legal and Scientific Aspects. Manchester: A Ireland & Co., 1884.

Hoggan F. Women in medicine (Europe). In: Stanton T, ed. The Women Question in Europe. London: Sampson Low, 1884. George wrote a section of Frances’s chapter. See also Todd M. Life of Sophia Jex-Blake. London: Macmillan, 1918: pp. 292, 346

Frances Hoggan, “Evidence Given before the Departmental Committee on Higher and Intermediate Education in Wales 1880,” in Education for Girls in Wales (London: Women’s Printing Society, 1882).

Theodore Stanton (ed) The Woman Question in Europe. A Series of Original Essays  (London: Sampson Low & Co, 1884).Frances E. Hoggan, “Women in Medicine,”

Thomas O. Frances Elizabeth Hoggan, 1843–1927. (Privately printed, 1970)