In 1898, Dr Benjamin Osborne is dying and his family gather around him. They include his wife, his brother, his son and 2 daughters. He is pleased with his son’s career as a ship’s doctor and that he has lived to see his daughter Caroline qualify to become a doctor, but he worries he will not be able to guide Hannah his youngest daughter. She promises to keep up the family tradition and study medicine.
Caroline is in for a difficult time with her chosen profession, as after her father dies she does not get support from her uncle or mother. Hubert does not hire her on at the family practice as he believes it is not suitable job for a woman, Her mother agrees with him, especially as she thinks her husband was sent to an early grave because of his career. Caroline doesn’t have any better luck outside her family either. She gets rejected by all the jobs she applies for. One of the maids, Dolly points out there is plenty of work at a poorer end of town, even if they can’t pay much. Caroline takes her advice and buys a warehouse on Hope Street to set up a clinic.
After a slow start, Caroline and Hannah are soon kept busy with patients. They get a visit from Edgar, the doctor that Herbert has hired and he seems taken with Caroline. When Mrs. Osborne finds out about the clinic she and Caroline fight leading to Caroline moving out. Hannah and Caroline blame Edgar for their mother finding out, but it is actually a servant who accidentally let it slip. Hannah helps out secretly at the clinic but it is clear that Caroline, who is now living at the clinic, is overworked. When Edgar helps out with a factory owner problem, Caroline starts to soften up to him and accepts his help at the clinic.
Hannah comes up with a plan to reconcile her mother and Caroline, by tricking them into meeting up. On the way to the meeting there is an explosion in the underground, Caroline rushes to help and included in the crash is Mrs. Osborne. Other than a sprained ankle, she is fine and is also very proud of Caroline’s achievements after this incident. Caroline is considered a heroine, and Mrs. Osborne supports the clinic. She is also delighted to see it named for Benjamin.
For the historic context; the 1800s was a time when women began to study as doctors. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first female doctor to qualify in the UK, though she obtained her medical degree in Paris after getting refused in England, she then set up medical school for women and continued to campaign for women doctors, in 1876 an act was passed that allowed women to enter the medical profession. So historically it is accurate that Caroline could become a doctor but as it was just 20 years after this act it is expected that there was still prejudice against women doctors.
Even though she is met with obstacles in pursuing her career, she seems to set up her own clinic with ease. Presumably Caroline was left money by her father after his death but not only is able to buy the warehouse quite quickly, she also converts it into a clinic and maintains medical supplies. The poorer people pay with what they can, (sometimes they even pay with food) so she most have a good source of money backing her up. Though they do end up looking for contributions to help the clinic by end of the book.
The uncle seems like he could be villainous, he has a bit of a sinister look about him in the first panel, but he’s actually not very antagonistic. Other than refusing Caroline a place in the family practice he hardly appears in the story. As a contrast the young Edgar, is more open minded about women doctors, he is shown as very compassionate and is admiring of Caroline. After so much rejection and discrimination, Caroline is very slow to trust him.
Caroline is a commendable strong character. She is hard working, caring and stands up for what she believes in. Of course these characteristics can lead to her flaws; as being stubborn and slow to accept help and admit weakness. So she is a well rounded character. She is not the main character though as the story is told mostly from the point of view of the younger sister Hannah. She gets to strike the balance of both worlds. She helps at the clinic, she has the ambition to follow this career path and she clearly admires Caroline. At the same time she sees her struggle, she is more willing to encourage Edgar to help. She can see her mother’s reasoning of it being hard work and also sees that Caroline and her mother are both similar in their stubbornness.
It’s an interesting story, good characters, while a main plot is a woman struggling to find acceptance in a male dominated profession, it is also focused on the family drama along with it. There are some dramatic moments, like the train crash, and the confrontation at the factory to keep it more exciting. The art is good throughout, I particularly like the detail that went into the crash scene.