Laura Fowler female medical graduate 1891: a first for University of Adelaide and Australia

Laura Fowler with staff and other students of medicine and surgery at Adelaide University in 1891.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

Laura Fowler became the University of Adelaide's first woman medical and surgery graduate, also winning the Elder Prize, in 1891.

Part of the wholesale grocery business family, Laura had her early education at Madame Marval's school in Adelaide, and then to England to finish her schooling.

When the family returned to South Australia, Laura matriculated with high grades to University of Adelaide. medical course in late 1886.

After graduating, Laura Fowler worked as house surgeon at the Women's and Children's Hospital until 1893 when she married fellow physician Charles Henry Standish Hope. The couple went to India on a mission to provide medical assistance but they were unable to find enough work to support themselves.

After a period back in England, the Hopes returned to India in 1895 and settled in Bengal, and would go on to devote 30 years in Bengal, despite the adverse effects of the climate on their health,

They worked for church missions in Bengal, alternating with spells of independent work. They occasionally visited England and South Australia and, during World War I, worked in field hospitals in Serbia.

Their work in India was often high pressure. In 1916, stationed at the Church of Scotland Mission at Kalimpong in North Bengal, Laura Fowler was in medical charge of 540 children and 73 staff.

Laura Hope retired in 1933 and both she and her husband were honoured with the Kaisar-I-Hind gold medal for their work in India.

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