3rd September 1919

Author “Graham Travers” dies

Fife-born Margaret Todd would have been better-known to Victorian readers as Graham Travers – the name under which she published her debut novel, Mona Maclean, Medical Student.

The book concerns itself with a female student at the London School of Medicine for Women who, after failing her exams, travels to Scotland and works in a relative’s shop. While there, she meets a fellow (male) medical student with whom she eventually passes her medical exams and sets up a practice.

Mona Maclean gets rave reviews

The story was well received – and so it should have been, as it would have had more than a ring of truth about it, since ‘Graham Travers’, the pseudonym under which it was written and published, was the name under which Todd was herself studying for a medical degree at the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women.

Upon qualifying, she worked for a few years in medicine in Edinburgh while she carried on writing, eventually publishing six full-length novels. She also came up with the term ‘isotope’, which is still used to describe radioactive elements with different atomic masses.

Margaret Todd dies

She died in Ealing, London, in 1919, aged just 59. By then, although she was still writing most of her books under the name Graham Travers, she was well known by her real identity, and notices of her passing in the press of the time carried the name Margaret Todd.

The Middlesex County Times, on 7 September 1918, outlined to readers that she had been “educated at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Berlin,” and that “her chief literary work was her last – the life of Dr Jex-Blake, which was in parts almost too laboriously minute for the general reader, though the full story, as she wrote it, of her heroine’s struggles against custom and prejudice, to enter the medical profession, has the advantage of being authoritative and complete.”

Relationship with Sophia Jex-Blake

Sophia Jex-Blake was a real person, with whom Todd is thought to have had a romantic relationship. The two had moved to East Sussex together following Jex-Blake’s retirement.

Although there has been some suggestion that Todd’s death was a result of suicide, Vote, on 13 September 1918, printed that “it is thought that she overtaxed her strength in writing so important and complete a book. It is certain that she put her great powers of mind and her valuable experience as a medical woman into this notable biography and her devotion has won the abiding gratitude of many who appreciate a service which will be historic. For herself, too, Dr Todd was greatly beloved, and far and wide her loss will be keenly felt.”



Other events that occured in September

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