Who was the first female graduate of the University of St Andrews?
The first female graduate was Agnes Forbes Blackadder (1875-1964) of Broughty Ferry who received her MA on 29 March 1895. Born on 4 December 1875, daughter of Robert Blackadder, architect and civil engineer, Dundee and Agnes Sturrock, she attended Dundee High School and began her studies at St Andrews in academic year 1892/1893.
She first appears in the Calendar of 1893-1894 as having passed the preliminary examinations in 1892-1893 along with 11 other women; passing towards the degree of MA in April 1893 in Chemistry alongside only two other women: Annie Lloyd-Evans in English and Margaret Crichton in Latin (Medical student)
In the Calendar of 1894-1895 she passed towards the degree of MA in October 1893 in Latin and Botany, along with Ella Lumsden in English and Jessie N Nelson in Latin; in March 1894 she passed in Natural Philosophy, Logic and English, along with 11 other female students in various subjects.
Finally, in the Calendar of 1895-6 she passed towards the degree of MA in October 1894 in Zoology and is listed as a Graduate in Arts, Degree of M.A. of session 1894-5, along with 13 men, another 7 men graduating BSc and 10 me with an MD, 27 men with a BD.
Agnes Blackadder went on to study at University College, Dundee in 1897/1898 and Queen Margaret College for Women in the University of Glasgow, obtaining an MBChB in 1898, and her MD in 1901. She married Dr Thomas D Savill in 1901 but was widowed in 1910. As Dr Agnes Savill she achieved great eminence through a distinguished medical career as a consultant dermatologist in London, one of the first women to be appointed in such a capacity in a hospital which was not exclusively for women. She published papers on the forcible feeding of suffrage prisoners on hunger strike and played a central role as radiographer in the Scottish Women's Hospital at Royaumont, France, during the 1914-1918 War.
More information about her life and work will be found on the University of Glasgow's roll of honour. This cites as a source the very readable Eileen Crofton, The Women of Royamount: A Scottish Women's Hospital on the Western Front (East Linton: Tuckwell, 1997). There are obituaries in: British Medical Journal Vol. 1(2), 1964, p.1515; and the British Journal of Dermatology 76, October 1964.
Of course, she was not the first woman to attempt to study here - in 1862 Elizabeth Garrett matriculated, the first woman to qualify as a physician in Britain, but the Senatus subsequently prohibited her entrance on the grounds of illegality. The LLA scheme, initiated in 1877, had been offering women a distance-learning course equivalent in academic standard to the MA, but recognised only at diploma level.