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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Edward Cresy to Emma Darwin   20 November 1865

Metropolitan Board of Works | Spring Gardens

20 Nov 65

My dear Mrs Darwin,

Permit me to awaken your feminine sympathies in behalf of a very admirable young lady & dear friend of ours Miss Elizabeth Garrett who has, after encountering an amount of opposition which few men would have had the courage to encounter, succeeded in obtaining the diploma of the Apothecaries Company, & has started in practice—1

Your brother in law Mr Erasmus Darwin is Chairman of the Council of the Bedford College for Girls2 & Miss Garrett is a candidate for their Professorship of physiology applications for which are to go in on Wednesday next— I have no doubt that if a properly qualified lady can be obtained that the council would be disposed to consider her as possessing many advantages for instructing girls, especially in that particular branch—3 I cannot of course ask you to urge the claims of one who is a stranger to you—but if you could say to Mr Erasmus Darwin that you believe that my recommendation would not be lightly given and that I have had the opportunity of watching Miss Garretts career closely & of frequently observing & testing her scientific acquirements and know them to be of a high order—& also that her industry & zeal are beyond all praise, I think possibly that even at second hand such testimony might do her good service— She is frequently at our house & my wife4 & I both entertain the greatest regard for her—

I may add what I know will interest you although it cannot help her in the matter now under consideration, viz that the very special career to which she has devoted herself has nothing impaired the charm of her manner or her social converse   she is neither masculine nor pedantic & except you knew her intimately you would only recognise a well bred English Lady— I hope you will be able to give me a more favorable account of Mr Darwin than the last.5 pray remember us both most kindly to him—

Yours very truly | E Cresy

Mrs Darwin


Elizabeth Garrett received a licence to practise medicine from the Society of Apothecaries in September 1865, and began a private consultancy in London shortly after (Manton 1965, pp. 115–18). The Society of Apothecaries was the only medical organisation whose charter did not prohibit the admittance of women. Although Garrett was accepted as an apprentice by the society in 1861, she later threatened legal action when the society’s Court of Examiners refused to let her sit for the licensing examination. Garrett had already experienced difficulties obtaining the clinical hours and lecture courses that were required for the medical certificate, because many universities and hospital schools refused to admit her as a student (ibid., pp. 112–68).
CD’s brother, Erasmus Alvey Darwin, had served as chairman of the council of the Ladies’ College, Bedford Square (Bedford College) since it was founded in 1849. Emma’s sister-in-law Frances Wedgwood was also a member of the council (Tuke 1939, pp. 36–42).
Garrett had been advised to offer her services as lecturer in physiology by a trustee of Bedford College; however, on deliberation, the council considered the subject unsuitable for women students, and the position was not created until 1882 (Tuke 1939, p. 104).
Mary Louis Cresy.


Manton, Jo. 1965. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. London: Methuen. [Reprint edition 1987.]

Tuke, Margaret J. 1939. A history of Bedford College for Women, 1849–1937. London: Oxford University Press.


Asks Emma to write to Erasmus [E. A. Darwin] in support of Miss Elizabeth Garrett as Professor of Physiology at Bedford College for girls.

Letter details

Letter no.
Edward Cresy, Jr
Emma Wedgwood/Emma Darwin
Sent from
Metropolitan Board of Works
Source of text
DAR 161: 247
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 4940,” accessed on 17 October 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 13