Happy Birthday!

June 6, 2013


It is almost as if we planned this post deliberately…

So, continuing our theme of inspiration behind the names of each of our pieces of off-the-peg furniture – this week we say Happy 177th Birthday to a lady who not only inspired our dresser, The Garrett, but is also a huge inspiration to me and women everywhere.

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson

This painting is c1860.
I think she looks really beautiful.

Elizabeth Garrett was born on 9th June 1836, the second of eleven children. Her father was self-taught and self-made which enabled each of his children to grow up in an atmosphere of “triumphant economic pioneering” and to become achievers in the professional classes of late-Victorian England. Unusually, Elizabeth was encouraged to take an interest in politics and was also given a free reign to explore and socialise with both the upper classes and the fisher folk of Aldeburgh in Suffolk where she lived until she moved to London to find her own fame and fortune.

Gosh, I have so much to say about this lady, but I’m aware this may start to sound like a history lesson, so if you would like to read the full synopsis of Elizabeth’s enormous life and all its achievements, please go here.

Suffice to say that she led the most full and fascinating existence due to her insatiable appetite for knowledge and information, and for bucking the trend of the time by carving out the sort of career for herself that the women and working mothers of today would struggle at.

220px-Lady_mayoress

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson becoming the first Lady Mayor of Aldeburgh. November 1908.

Against all odds, and in the face of the most extreme, male chauvinistic, Victorian-style adversity, (oh how I would’ve loved to have been a fly on Elizabeth’s walls when certain conversations were taking place…”No you can’t join the BMA.”…”Why not?”…”Because you’re a woman…”) she became the first Englishwoman to qualify as a physician and surgeon in Britain, the co-founder of the first hospital staffed by women, the first dean of a British medical school, the first female M.D. in France, the first woman in Britain to be elected to a school board and, as Mayor of Aldeburgh, the first female mayor and magistrate in Britain. Crikey…that’s quite a list of firsts..imagine the CV!

Her legacy continues in hospitals and institutions throughout London and, coincidentally, in the pioneering design, style and craftsmanship of our gorgeous dresser, The Garrett (okay, perhaps a little bit of hyperbole there, but you get our drift!)

So, Happy 177th Birthday Elizabeth; you were one magnificent human being.