Women in White Coats

Olivia Campbell

Meet the pioneering women who changed the medical landscape for us all

For fans of Hidden Figures and Radium Girls comes the remarkable story of three Victorian women who broke down barriers in the medical field to become the first women doctors, revolutionising the way women receive health care.

In the early 1800s, women were dying in large numbers from treatable diseases because they avoided receiving medical care. Examinations performed by male doctors were often demeaning and even painful. In addition, women faced stigma from illness–a diagnosis could greatly limit their ability to find husbands, jobs or be received in polite society.

Motivated by personal loss and frustration over inadequate medical care, Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Sophia Jex-Blake fought for a woman’s place in the male-dominated medical field. For the first time ever, Women in White Coats tells the complete history of these three pioneering women who, despite countless obstacles, earned medical degrees and paved the way for other women to do the same. Though very different in personality and circumstance, together these women built women-run hospitals and teaching colleges – creating for the first time medical care for women by women.

With gripping storytelling based on extensive research and access to archival documents, Women in White Coats tells the courageous history these women made by becoming doctors, detailing the boundaries they broke of gender and science to reshape how we receive medical care today.


ISBN: 9781800752467

Published: October 20, 2022


ISBN: 9781800752481

Published: July 6, 2023


ISBN: 9781800752474

Published: September 15, 2022


Reviews for Women in White Coats

‘Olivia Campbell’s Women in White Coats is a lovingly rendered, joyfully expressed history of extraordinary medical women. With a storyteller’s flair, Campbell chronicles their struggles, setbacks, and stridently hard-won triumphs across decades and continents. I emerged from the book both humbled and inspired‘ – Rachel Vorona Cote, author of Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today

‘A fascinating, absorbing, and inspiring account of three women who set out to become doctors at a time when female doctors were desperately needed but hard to find. By overcoming obstacles of professional discrimination, personal heartaches, and societal suspicions, these women realized their dreams and changed the world’ – Nina Sankovitch, bestselling author of American Rebels

‘An engrossing portrait of a transformative moment in Victorian medicine, when women doctors demanded the right to heal and be healed. Their battle was collective, and their hard-won triumph is ours. Women in White Coats is a timely reminder of just how many hands it takes to move mountains’ – Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet

‘The uplifting story of three friends … who became the first women to earn medical degrees. Faced with obstacles at every turn, it’s a story of single-minded resilience‘ – Stylist

‘Resolute Elizabeth, self-effacing Lizzie, publicity wooing Sophia: these trailblazers were on a radical quest for nothing less than equality, and as well as the slog and loneliness, Campbell’s intensively researched book captures some of the thrill … paints a rounded picture of each woman’s loves and losses, showing how intimately their private lives shaped their professional’ – Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

‘The story of three Victorian women’s triumph over male prejudice in the medical profession… genuinely well-researched…excellent research’ – Leyla Sanai, The Spectator

‘What it took for these women to achieve their dream of becoming registered doctors in the face of determined opposition from the male medical establishment will make you bang your head against a brick wall multiple times… But the women chipped away, in the face of the men’s tantrums which “knew no bounds”, as Olivia Campbell writes in her lively chronicle’ – Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Daily Mail

‘This thoroughly-researched book brings to life the personalities of the first women doctors … reads as a compelling story as well as an historical account … This lovely book sets out the trials and tribulations that these first women doctors had to endure as well as the personality quirks that characterised them. I felt I really got to know them as individuals as well as the time in history that they were living through’ – Hannah Milton, British Journal of General Practice


Olivia Campbell

Olivia Campbell is a journalist and author specializing in medicine and women; her work has appeared in The Guardian, the Washington Post, New York Magazine and The Cut, among others. This is her first book.