Sarah Fraser, Doctor

Sarah Louise Fraser was born in Inverness in 1874. Her father was an iron founder manager, and she was educated at Bedford College, London. Sarah studied medicine at the London (Royal Free Hospital) School of Medicine for Women, qualified in 1901 and gained her M.D. in 1908, but was not allowed to work in a hospital. Kelly’s Directory 1913 lists Dr Fraser as the only woman physician in York, working in her own practice at 16, The Mount; in 1911 Dr Fraser was living at no. 16, the Mount.

Part of Dr Fraser’s early professional experience was garnered at the York Dispensary, which provided a free domiciliary service for the poor of the city. In 1906 she opened her own practice, continued to work at the Dispensary, and held a weekly clinic for women and children.

Dr Fraser launched a public appeal for subscriptions for a maternity home and in 1908 the first in York opened in Ogleforth with five places. Places increased and in 1923 the home was handed over to the Local Authority. Dr Fraser’s concern about the health of babies developed into an Infant Welfare Scheme – it was found that when the nutrition of mothers was improved, improvements to the health of their infants ensued.

Dr Fraser was Medical Officer at Clifford Street Hospital from May-December 1915. She was Medical Officer at Nunthorpe Hall from 18 July till February 1918, when she became Medical Officer and Commandant. Throughout her service at Nunthorpe Hall Dr Fraser was paid the sum of 3d. per bed!! She was not accepted, however, at the Military and County Hospitals.

Dr Fraser was awarded an M.B.E. in 1920. From 1926 she travelled a great deal and died in Bournemouth in 1958 at the age of 84. Dr Fraser’s obituary in the British Medical Journal, 29 November 1958 states that ‘even at an advanced age, she still retained a keen interest in medical matters and in the profession that she had served so well’.

Pauline Alden