Located on the first floor of RCSI’s original building, the 19th century Board Room commands panoramic views over St Stephen’s Green. Original features include two open fire places and a decorative ceiling, the details of which are reflected in the hand made carpet. It provided ample space for important occasions on which the President, Vice-President, Censors and Members convened to conduct College business. In 1885 a meeting took place here where, under the second supplemental charter, it was agreed to open the Medical School to women. The room also holds a prominent place in national history as there is a bullet mark on the main door of the room, dating back to the time Countess Markievicz occupied the building during the 1916 Rising. Today, RCSI proudly displays portraits of men and women accomplished in surgery and medicine.
History of RCSI & its early women
The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland was founded by Royal Charter on 11th February 1784, to set and support professional standards for surgical training and practice in Ireland. Previously, surgeons had been members of the Barber-Surgeons Guild.
The College first met in the boardroom of Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital as it had not yet a premises of its own. Later, College acquired a disused hall at Mercer’s Hospital. Mary Mercerhad in 1724 set up a fine stone house for the shelter of poor girls, which became Mercer’s Hospital in her memory.
The College flourished and in 1810 moved to its present location on St Stephen’s Green. George Renny, a surgeon and Director General of the Army Medical Department in Ireland, obtained the funds for the building. The site had been a disused Quaker graveyard. Samuel Croker-King was elected the first President and William Dease the first Professor of Surgery. The founding fathers were influenced by and emulated the high standard of surgery in France at that time.The demand for Army and Navy surgeons created by the Napoleonic wars caused the College to prosper.
In 1885 the second supplemental charter of Queen Victoria opened the RCSI Medical School, its Licence and Fellowship to women.
And we do hereby, for us, our heirs and successors, grant, declare, and appoint that all provisions of the Charter, Bye-Laws, and Ordinances as to education, examination, and granting diplomas to Fellows or Licentiates shall extend to include women. (Article 14, Queen Victoria 1885)
Mary Emily Dowson (1848-1941) became the first woman to obtain her licentiate from RCSI, thus becoming the first qualified female surgeon in Britain or Ireland. She attained her medical education at the London School of Medicine for Women, whose lectures were recognised by RCSI.
Mary Josephine Hannan (1865-1935) was the first woman both to train and to qualify at RCSI and became LRCSI in 1890.
Emily Winifred Dickson (1866-1944) successfully sat the examination and became the first female Fellow of RCSI in 1893.