Dr Frances Hoggan memorial, 20 High Street, Brecon

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The purple plaque on this building commemorates medical pioneer Dr Frances Hoggan, born here in 1843. She was the first British woman to obtain a medical doctorate. In the 1870s she and her husband George became the first married couple in Britain to establish a medical practice together.

Portrait of Dr Frances HogganThe building, now home to clothing store Nicholls, is a 17th-century town house which was extended in the early 19th century. It was a pharmacy throughout the 19th century.

Frances Elizabeth Morgan’s parents were Rev Richard Morgan and his wife Georgiana. Richard was curate at St John’s Church (now Brecon Cathedral). Frances initially went to school in Cowbridge, where the family had moved. Later she attended schools in France and Germany.

In her early 20s, she decided on a medical career – but no British universities would train women to become doctors. She enrolled at Zurich University in Switzerland,  Europe’s only university which accepted female medical students. She completed an important doctoral thesis on muscular dystrophy and in 1870 became only the second woman in the whole of Europe to gain a medical doctorate.

Her post-graduate studies took her to various cities. In 1870 The Times reported that Frances was the first woman ever admitted to the annual meeting of the Academy of Vienna. Noting that an Austrian newspaper had described her as American, The Times said it was informed that she was an Englishwoman!

Having returned to Britain, Frances worked with other pioneering women at London’s New Hospital for Women. They founded the National Health Society in 1871 to promote wellbeing in all classes of society.

Frances married George Hoggan in 1874 and gained her licence to practice in the UK in 1877. She was the first female member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Frances and George jointly produced many research papers, notably on the lymph glands. She campaigned for better education for girls in Wales, and turned her attention to educational and social reforms overseas. She toured the USA and wrote about the difficulties faced by black American women. Her paper on Indian medicine led to a fund being established to increase the numbers of female medics, medical schools and women’s hospitals in India. She died in 1927.

The purple plaque, unveiled in 2023, was sponsored by The Learned Society of Wales. Follow the link below for the society’s information on Frances.

Postcode: LD3 7AL    View Location Map

Website of Nicholls

More about Dr Frances Hoggan on The Learned Society of Wales website

Website of Purple Plaques – celebrating Remarkable Women in Wales