|The Clark family dressed in 'free-labour' cotton in 1858. James and Eleanor (1st and 3rd from left), Annie (8th from left).|
Annie was educated privately at a girl's school in Bath and then lived at home, taking her full share in the work and duties necessary to her large family circle. Her mother was active in good causes, supporting the Abolition movement by selling and dressing her family in 'free-labour' cotton, produced by freed slaves. Annie did social service among the girls employed in the family factory, worked for the Bible Society and espoused the cause of temperance. From the mid 1860s she was an ardent supporter of Womens Suffrage, although in common with most Quaker women of her time she was a suffragist rather than a suffragette, seeking to advance the cause through argument rather than through confrontation.
It was not until Annie was in her late twenties that she began to study for a university entrance examination with a view to taking up a medical career. At that time no hospital or medical school in England would admit women as students. There was however an open door in Scotland at Edinburgh and Annie Clark was one of the small band of women students who entered. Their only possible route to qualification was by way of the licentiate examination of the Society of Apothecaries.
It was still impossible for her to practice in the British Isles but just then Dublin adopted a more liberal view and she and twelve other women took the membership examination of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Annie then spent some time in postgraduate work in Paris, Vienna and America before returning to England in 1878 to take up an appointment as house surgeon at the Birmingham and Midland Hospital for Women which had just moved to extended premises in Yardley. She remained associated with this hospital and with the Children's Hospital for the rest of her working life. She also built up a large private practice, gaining to a special degree the friendship and regard of a wide circle of patients, to whom she was affectionately known as 'Dr Annie'.
Quakerism was always an important part of Annie's life. She was described as 'an earnest Friend, laying stress on the value of regular attendance at meetings for worship and discipline. Except in cases of urgent necessity she never saw her patients until the hour of worship was over'.