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Standing on her shoulders: BVA celebrates centenary of women entering the veterinary profession

19 Dec 2019


We're celebrating 100 years since an Act of Parliament allowed women onto the veterinary register.

We are leading the profession this week in celebrating the first 100 years of women being allowed onto the veterinary register. To mark the occasion, the BVA Officer team visited the Parliamentary Archives to personally view the historic act which opened the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Register to women on 23 December 1919.

The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 removed the legal barriers that prevented women entering the legal, chartered accountancy and veterinary medicine professions as well as the civil service. It allowed universities to award women degrees and paved the way for Aleen Cust to become the first female veterinary surgeon to be recognised by the RCVS in 1922. Women now make up around 60% of vets on the register and around 80% of vet students.

BVA President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“I am honoured to be a female president celebrating this centenary. Thanks to those women who went before me I have been able to join this amazing profession and do a job I love. Their determination paved the way for change for which I am eternally grateful, and gave me, and the other four female BVA presidents before me the opportunity to represent our fantastic profession.

“Seeing the act which made this possible in person was an emotional experience for me and I know that my fellow officers were also delighted to be allowed access to a document which has had such a tremendous impact on our profession.

“Like me, Aleen Cust had only ever wanted to be one thing. One hundred years ago she was working as vet but not legally recognised as one. Today we celebrate women in our profession, but we’ve still got a way to go on equality, diversity and inclusion. We’re up for the challenge.”

To recognise this historic landmark, we are using blogs and social media to celebrate the incredible contributions and achievements made by women vets in every area of the profession. Using the hashtag #StandingOnHerShoulders, we are inviting members of the veterinary profession to join us in nominating some of the women vets who have inspired them over the last century. We are also sharing the stories of inspirational women vets from the past, present and future on our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram channels.


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