A Barrier Buster in Veterinarian Science

Aleen Cust was born in Ireland in 1868. She was 10 when her father died, and she was sent to England to become the ward of a military officer. At an early age, she had hopes of becoming a veterinarian.

Her family didn’t approve of her pursuit of veterinary science as a career because it wasn’t considered a proper career for a woman. Her academic interests were further complicated because her mother was of service to Queen Victoria. Aleen, displaying the determination that became her approach to life. She changed her name and began her hope of becoming a veterinarian.

Arleen finished her studies at the top of her class but was denied permission to take the qualifying exam to become a practicing veterinarian. She appealed the decision but was turned down.

She was able to work as an assistant to another veterinarian in Ireland. The priesthood was strongly opposed, but her work with animals had established her reputation, no matter what she was called.

When World War I began, she went to France to care for the horses that were vital to the war effort. Her lack of a veterinarian credential didn’t matter.

Following the war, England passed laws giving women the right to vote and removing some forms of gender discrimination. The veterinary college could no longer deny Aleen her right to practice. She took the qualifying test and received her diploma 22 years after she should have graduated. Her hope had finally been realized. She was the first female veterinarian in the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, she was only able to practice for another two years due to failing health. She died of heart failure at the age of 68.

Aleen Cust’s story is one of determination and hope. It’s a story for anyone who is discouraged from pursuing their purpose in life. It’s also a story of how some people seem to thrive by placing barriers in front of those who have undeniable hope. It’s a story that is more than 150 years old that is still relevant today.

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“I certainly think that 10 to 20 years from now, clearly the majority of veterinarians will be women.” – Richard Adams (author of Watership Down)

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