first woman to defend a doctoral degree in Finland
The first woman to defend a doctoral degree in Finland was
Karolina Eskelin in 1895.
After Rosina Heikel, it took ten years before the next women
entered the Faculty of Medicine. Two friends, Karolina Eskelin
and Ina Rosqvist, completed the degree of Bachelor of Medicine
in 1891. They both made impressive careers as doctors,
researchers and health educators. Karolina Eskelin went on to
complete a doctorate in the field of medicine and surgery, on
After her doctorate, Eskelin pursued a career in practical
medicine and published only a few scientific articles. For
some years she worked as a junior physician at the Department
of Surgery of the University of Helsinki, and from 1900 to
1903 she ran a private hospital in Tampere. Eskelin developed
her professional skills on study trips abroad; in 1904-1905
and in 1912 she practised medicine in the United States among
ex-patriate Finns. After her return to Finland, she tended a
surgical practice in the district of Kallio in Helsinki and
specialised in gynaecological surgery.
Besides practical medicine and research, Karolina Eskelin was
interested in health education. She wrote numerous popular
books, pamphlets and articles on, for example, the
significance of hygiene in preventive medicine. The medical
manual edited by Eskelin was reprinted ten times. She also
wrote a gynaecology textbook for nurses.
In her free time, Karolina Eskelin was an avid motorist and
was among the first women in Finland to obtain a driving
licence in the early 1920s.
1 Karolina Eskelin in the 1890s. Photo: National Board of Antiquities.
2 Karolina Eskelin at her own clinic. Photo: NBA.
3 Drawing of a fetus from a guide book by Eskelin.
4 Karolina Eskelin driving her brand new Opel in 1913. Photo: NBA