Surgeon Elizabeth Fraser

Biography of Surgeon Elizabeth Fraser

Elizabeth (or Lizzie) Thomson Fraser was born on 4th February 1878 in Uphall, Linlithgowshire. Her father, William, was a managing director and was still alive when Lizzie matriculated at Queen Margaret College to study medicine in 1895, aged 17. At that time she was living at Serbton, Maxwell Drive, Pollockshields. These were challenging times for women students and Lizzie was a pioneer, sharing labs and classes with some of the most gifted and determined young women of her generation, like Daisy Bennett, Agnes Blackadder and Annie McIlroy. Glasgow’s first woman doctor, Marion Gilchrist, had graduated just a year before Lizzie began her studies.

Lizzie was an outstanding student, graduating on 19th July 1900, with a long list of merits and distinctions behind her. In 1896 she took First Class certificates in Chemistry and Materia Medica, and a Second Class Certificate in Junior Anatomy. Over the following two years she gained First Class Certificates in Anatomy, Pharmacy and Practical Physiology, a Second Class Certificate in Embryology. In the session of 1898–1899, she thrived on her studies.

She was the medallist in midwifery, and took another clutch of First Class certificates in Surgery, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Medical Jurisprudence and Public Health, and Insanity. After graduating, she continued her academic studies, and in 1906 her crowning achievement was the award of the Bellahouston Gold Medal when she graduated MD with Honours for her thesis On the Value of the Tuberculo-opsonic Index in Diagnosis.

Just a few months before the First World War broke out, Lizzie married Frederick William Robertson Butler, a lecturer at the University of Lemberg in Austria. The ceremony was at the Grand Hotel in Glasgow on the 27th March 1914. Lizzie had been awarded a Breit Memorial Research Fellowship from the Lister Institute and she had been working on a cancer research project in Lemberg just before the war. She and her husband became refugees when the war began.

Lizzie wrote to the Lister Institute offering her services either at home or abroad. In the end she and her husband found their niche in the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaume, set up in 1914, thanks to the efforts of the suffragette societies and the untiring labours of Edinburgh doctor, Elsie Inglis. Frederick, Lizzie’s husband, found useful work as a chauffeur for a short time, and Lizzie organised a laboratory which won high praise from Professor Weinberg of the Pasteur Institute, an expert on gangrene, when he visited Glasgow in March 1916.

After the war, Lizzie returned and lived in Glasgow for a spell, in Pollockshields, with her family. From the 1930s, however, she was in the south of England, first in Weybridge, Sussex and then at 1 De Walden Court, Eastbourne, Sussex. She died on 8th October 1960, aged 82.



Surgeon Elizabeth Fraser
Rank: Surgeon
Regiment: Scottish Womens Hospital
Degree: MD
Awards: N/A
Comments: Mrs Butler
Note/Press Clipping: N/A
Photo ID: N/A


University of Glasgow Registry, Faculty and General Council Records

Eileen Crofton, The Women of Royamount: A Scottish Women’s Hospital on the Western Front (East Linton: Tuckwell, 1997)

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