In 1905, former Honorary Secretary of the London School of Medicine for Women (LSMW), Isabel Thorne, published a small account which celebrated thirty years of the institution. While this was intended primarily as an historical narrative describing the foundation of the School, it also contained portraits of a few illustrious and talented alumni, some of whom had died tragically pursuing their goal. The final paragraphs of the Sketch were directed firmly at the ‘successive generation of students’, those lucky ones for whom the road had ‘been cleared and the way made easy’ and whose only burden was not the individual struggle borne bravely by their predecessors but a collective weight of social and professional expectation. 1 For the early twentieth-century female medical student, carrying ‘on the traditions handed down to them’, following ‘in the footsteps’ of the great names meant exhibiting both skilfulness ‘in the practice of her profession, but also [as] an example to all other women for purity of mind and large heartedness’. 2 Isabel Thorne concluded the Sketch with a flawless portrait of the ‘ideal qualities’ of the medical woman:

She should be wise and sympathetic with a clear, logical mind, much commonsense, good judgment, tact and acquaintance with human nature, able to inspire her patients with confidence. She is brought into close contact with so many of her fellow creatures, has so much varied experience of trying situations, that she requires not only a profound knowledge of medicine and surgery, but a firm grasp of the principles underlying them and the faculty of applying what she knows to suitable cases. She must be unselfish with a great capacity for taking pains. If she takes up surgery much practical skill is needed. She sees so much of the sorrows of life that her heart is often wrung by the griefs of her patients who depend upon her for counsel and comfort in their troubles. She must be able to face responsibilities, for the issues of life and death are often in her hands, and much depends upon her judgment; good health, too, is a most important condition. A medical woman should possess a combination of all that is best in womanhood. Her profession gives her sphere of action for the exertion of the highest qualities. We look to present and future generations of medical students to justify the hard struggles of the pioneers of the movement and to show their appreciation of the efforts which have been made to secure to women liberty to be trained for the medical and surgical treatment of their own sex. 3

To embody all the requisite characteristics of a successful female doctor, the medical student needed mental, moral and physical fitness for her chosen career, while retaining every facet of her womanliness. It is hardly surprising that some students found their years at medical school and the demands of ‘community life’ ‘strenuous’. 4 For the fin-de-siècle and early twentieth-century female medical student, stamina was all. Pressure to succeed, without breaking down in mind, morals or body, was inculcated from their first day at the LSMW by the pioneering generation, who had battled for acceptance by society and the profession itself and desired to maintain a formidable reputation for uprightness and strength.