first woman doctor in Finland
Rosina Heikel was the first woman to practise medicine in
Finland and in all the Nordic countries. As a young girl,
Rosina Heikel dreamt of following her brothers into the
medical profession. When she was finishing school, there were
no female academics in Finland. Heikel had to pursue her dream
in a roundabout way. First she completed a physiotherapy
course in Stockholm, then a midwifery course in Helsinki, and
then returned to Stockholm to improve her knowledge of anatomy
and physiology by, for example, dissecting a body that she had
purchased for the purpose.
In the autumn of 1870, Rosina Heikel was admitted to follow
physiology lectures at the University of Helsinki. A year
later, by special permission of the Emperor, she was allowed
to study medicine without being officially enrolled at the
University. She completed the degree of Licentiate of Medicine
in 1871 and was granted restricted permission to practise
medicine. The restriction concerned her patients: she was only
allowed to treat women and children. Heikel never gained
unrestricted permission to practise medicine.
After her doctorate, a scholarship allowed her to travel
widely in Europe. Afterwards, she first had a practice in
Vaasa and from 1883 in Helsinki, where the post of city
gynaecologist had been established for her with donated
funds. In 1889 the title of the post was changed into city
pediatrician and gynaecologist.
Rosina Heikel was a known feminist, an advocate of women s
education and an opponent of legalised prostitution. She was
one the founding members of Konkordia-liitto, an academic
association for women, and the women's right movement,
1,2 Photo: National Board of Antiquities.
3 Rosina Heikel 1875. Photo: Atelier Charles Riis / NBA.