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McLaren, Agnes


Physician and promoter of medical missions; b. Edinburgh, July 4, 1837; d. Antibes, southeastern France, April 17, 1913. Because the University of Edinburgh did not at the time grant medical degrees to women, she got her doctorate at the University of Montpellier in France and qualified for practice in the United Kingdom by passing the examinations at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin. She became a Catholic Nov. 30, 1898, and was later received into the secular Third Order of St. Dominic. She became interested in medical mission work through her association with Dominic Wagner, a Mill Hill Father. In Rawalpindi, Pakistan, she founded a hospital to be run for women and by women exclusively. This was necessary because Muslim law prohibited women from being visited by men outside their own family. In order to obtain sufficient staff for the hospital, Dr. McLaren hoped to use a religious order. This was impossible because Canon Law forbade religious to practice medicine. Five times Dr. McLaren went to Rome to plead for a change of legislation. This was eventually obtained by a decree in 1936. Her ideals, however, were realized through Anna Dengel, an Austrian, who by the patronage of Dr. McLaren became a doctor and worked in the hospital at Rawalpindi. Anna Dengel later became foundress of the Medical Mission Sisters.

Bibliography: k. burton, According to the Pattern: The Story of Dr. Agnes McLaren and the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries (New York 1946). Fight for the Right, motion picture 16 mm, sd., color, 60 min. (Medical Mission Sisters; Philadelphia 1958).

[j. morris]

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