New online exhibits from the Archives for Women in Medicine

By , December 23, 2013

Two legacy online exhibits, The Stethoscope Sorority and Grete L. Bibring: The Modern Woman, are now available through the Center’s new online collections site, OnView.

The Stethoscope Sorority

Over the years, women have faced, and continue to face, many struggles in the field of medicine. Despite this ongoing adversity, they have emerged as strong leaders and helped revolutionize the profession. The Archives for Women in Medicine (AWM) at the Countway Library was created in 2000 to capture and preserve the untold history of the many women who have helped change the face of medicine in the United States. This exhibition highlights materials from the AWM that illustrate women’s experiences as mentors, pioneering researchers, healers, and strong voices speaking out for their beliefs. Using their own words, the exhibition presents stories from some of the women of the AWM and the people who have helped contribute to their successes.


Grete L. Bibring: The Modern Woman

In the 1970’s, Dr. Grete L. Bibring created a seminar for Radcliffe College called ‘The Educated Woman’. A small group of students would gather to discuss the issues surrounding educated women and their lives. The concept of the ‘modern woman’ came to portray the dual roles of family and career that women had one point been forced to choose between. Dr. Bibring was a mentor for the emerging modern woman, understanding the demands and rewards of maintaining both a career and family.

Born in Vienna just before the 20th century, Grete L. Bibring would earn the honor of being the first female full clinical professor at Harvard Medical School in 1961. As a part of the “second generation” of Freudian scholars, her achievements include her appointment as Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Beth Israel Hospital in 1955, professional activities in numerous psychiatric organizations, such as the psychoanalytic societies of Vienna, London, and Boston and psychiatric consultant of the Children’s Bureau in Washington D.C. She was highly influential in integrating psychiatric principles into general patient care. Her passion permeated her other roles working with students, residents, physicians, social workers, and nurses across the globe. Dr. Bibring’s work continued well after retirement with a thought provoking seminar at Radcliffe, publication of multiple articles, and her dedication to patient care. This exhibit celebrates her life and her influence on the generations of medical, psychiatric, and social services professions.

Browse all of the Center’s online exhibits at Onview.

2014-2015 Women in Medicine Fellowship: Application Period Open

By , December 20, 2013

Deadline: March 15th 2014


The Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine will provide one $5000 grant to support travel, lodging, and incidental expenses for a flexible research period between July 1st 2014 – June 30th 2015. Foundation Fellowships are offered for research related to the history of women to be conducted at the Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Preference will be given to projects that deal specifically with women physicians or other health workers or medical scientists, but proposals dealing with the history of women’s health issues may also be considered.

Manuscript collections which may be of special interest include the recently-opened Mary Ellen Avery Papers, the Leona Baumgartner Papers, and the Grete Bibring Papers (find out more about our collections at here). Preference will be given to those who are using collections from the Center’s Archives for Women in Medicine (see the full list of collections here), but research on the topic of women in medicine using other material from the Countway Library will be considered. Preference will also be given to applicants who live beyond commuting distance of the Countway, but all are encouraged to apply, including graduate students.

Application requirements

Applicants should submit a proposal (no more than two pages) outlining the subject and objectives of the research project, length of residence, historical materials to be used, and a project budget (including travel, lodging, and research expenses), along with a curriculum vitae and two letters of recommendation by March 15th, 2014. The fellowship proposal should demonstrate that the Countway Library has resources central to the research topic.

Applications should be sent to: Women in Medicine Fellowships, Archives for Women in Medicine, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, 10 Shattuck Street, Boston, MA 02115. Electronic submissions of applications and supporting materials and any questions may be directed to

The fellowship appointment will be announced in April 2014.

Inspiring Girls to Pursue Science

By , July 22, 2013

A recent study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that, among college students who start out in a STEM field and later drop out or switch majors, men are more likely to do so because they feel they lack organizational and time management skills, while women are more likely to do so because they lack a “‘self concept’ of themselves as scientists” — women couldn’t picture themselves as scientists.

mea1How can we instill in women and girls the vision of a successful, fulfilling career as a scientist? How can we make women scientists more visible, and make relatable role models more accessible? Here at the Archives for Women in Medicine we are working toward these goals in a variety of ways, acquiring women’s collections, celebrating their creators, and making materials like our Oral History Collection widely accessible. These oral history video interviews were conducted with Harvard Medical School’s earliest women faculty, and include frank and lesson-filled discussions of these luminaries’ lives and careers, their research, how they’ve balanced work and family life, what inspired them to enter the medical field, their relationships with mentors, and the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced as women in science.

The oral histories are freely available online for home or classroom viewing via OnView, our online collections site:

Some of our favorite excerpts:

“I was heavily influenced by my next door neighbor, Dr. Emily Bacon, who was a pediatrician. She actually showed me my first premature baby at that stage in my life,  and it made a lasting impression. [Interviewer: Did Dr. Bacon actively encourage you to pursue medicine?] Oh, I think she did, subtly, by virtue of her enjoying her role so much. She loved it and this enthusiasm of hers was contagious. I don’t think she said ‘You should go to medical school’ but I think I was aware that she was getting an enormous satisfaction out of life and I guess that I thought that might be something that I’d find satisfying, too.”

 Mary Ellen Avery, M.D., on her childhood neighbor and role model, Dr. Emily Bacon

“Oh, it’s a great field because there are a hundred different things you can do within it to fit your personality and what you want to do with life. I always tell [young women], don’t be forced into ‘a woman’s field.’ For instance, a woman will come to me and say, I’ve trained in surgical oncology and now they want me to do breast surgery and I don’t want to do breast surgery, I’ll say, don’t do breast surgery! If you don’t like it, don’t do it… don’t be forced into something that is thought to be a woman’s role. Pick things to do because you really have the hunger and the gut to do it, not because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do.”

 – Patricia Donahoe, M.D., on the advice she would give to young women considering careers in medicine

The oral history collection is also still actively growing; we’ll soon add a series of oral history interviews conducted with winners of the Alma Dea Morani Award from the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine to the collection, which will greatly broaden the national scope of the collection.

How can you help? As a scientist or medical professional, reach out and encourage women who are studying or entering your field. If you know of an outstanding woman in medicine who could serve as an inspiring role model, let us know.  We are always looking for more support and community involvement — find out more about the Archives here.

Joanne S. Ingwall Papers Now Open to Research

By , July 17, 2013
Joanne Ingwall

Joanne Ingwall

View the Finding Aid for the Joanne S. Ingwall papers

We’re pleased to announce the newest addition to the Archives for Women in Medicine’s open collections: the Joanne S. Ingwall papers. Dr. Ingwall served as Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) Laboratory from 1977 to 2009.  Ingwall was known for her use of magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) in the study of cardiac energetics, and for being the first person to put a heart in an NMR machine.  During the course of her career, Ingwall studied normal cardiac development and major cardiac diseases such as myocardial ischemia and hypertrophy.  She received the Louis N. Katz Basic Science Research Award from the American Heart Association in 1972.

The collection, which spans from 1961 to 2009, consists of correspondence, research records, writings, reports, grant records, professional records, and personal and administrative records produced by Ingwall while a faculty member at Harvard Medical School. Papers also contain records from her work at the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and from her work as a faculty member at the University of California, San Diego.

View other collections in the Archives for Women in Medicine

2013-2014 Women in Medicine Fellow: Dr. Ciara Breathnach

By , April 24, 2013

The Archives for Women in Medicine is pleased to announce our 2013-2014 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellow: Ciara Breathnach, Ph.D.

Dr. Ciara Breathnach

Dr. Breathnach is a Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Limerick, Ireland, and has published on Irish socio-economic and health histories in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Breathnach’s research focuses on how the poor experienced, engaged with and negotiated medical services in Ireland and in North America from 1860-1912. It builds on her wider studies on the family unit and the social history of medicine in Ireland and will help to advance her hypothesis that the rural Irish female was slow to medicalize, not only for socio-economic reasons, but also for reasons of personal agency. Using evidence from the records of the Boston dispensary, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Free Hospital for Women, and other collections, her research aims to show that Irish women continued to present as a problematic group long after the ethnic associations with cholera and typhoid outbreaks of earlier decades had dissipated.

Breathnach’s study examines migratory waves against trends in medical and social modernity processes. Combining pre-existing hypotheses from migration history and history of family, this study argues that because most Irish immigrants came from pre and proto-industrial households, they occupied a ‘transition phase’ of the social development process and were unfamiliar with modern medicine. Displaced by agricultural transition, and changes in marriage and inheritance patterns, Irish female migration came to outnumber male by the 1890s. Even after economic convergence had been reached in terms of real wages the rural Irish female continued to emigrate in significant numbers for economic, social and cultural reasons. These gendered migration trends have been well explored and established by economic and social historians but the history of their medical acculturation has remained largely ignored. By contrast the strain of Irish immigrants on the mental health system has received due consideration. This focused study of records held at the Archives for Women in Medicine at the Countway Library will be weighed against other socio-economic evidence to establish how problematic groups such as the Irish poor affected and shaped medical care in Boston.

The Women in Medicine Fellowships are offered in partnership with the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine.

Help Countway Library, enter to win a prize!

By , April 16, 2013

We are redesigning the Countway Library website, and we need your help! Your feedback will help us create a site that better serves your needs as a library user. Please take a few minutes to fill out our brief survey and let us know what you like and don’t like about the current site. The survey will take about 5 minutes, and will remain open until May 31st. Survey participants can enter to win a $70 Amazon Gift Card!

Survey link: Countway Library Website User Survey

All survey responses will remain anonymous. If you have questions, please contact Website Redesign Committee Chair Juliane Schneider at

Thank you to our donors!

By , March 28, 2013

Here at the Center for the History of Medicine, we are grateful for all our supporters — whether you are a donor of collections or funds, a researcher, or a visitor to one of our events or exhibits. You are the engine that advances the work of allowing the history of medicine to inform contemporary medicine and society.

Today we want extend a special thank you to those who have supported the Archives for Women in Medicine.  For more than 10 years, your support has helped us ensure that the stories of our women medical leaders – their experiences, struggles, and contributions – are preserved, made accessible, and transformed into a resource that can shape the leaders of tomorrow.

With your help, we have extended our reach this year by digitizing some of these critical resources, which you can view at our new online collections site, OnView. In the coming months, we will continue organizing and describing new collections to make them accessible for research. We are currently working on the archival records of groundbreaking biochemist, Eva Neer, M.D.  (1937-2000), who revolutionized our understanding of G proteins while at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  When this is completed, we’ll move on to the records of other women leaders waiting in the queue, such as Patricia Donahoe, M.D., Malkah Notman, M.D., and Anne Young, M.D.

So, to all of our donors, thank you for making this work possible!

New online oral history: Malkah Notman, M.D.

By , March 7, 2013

Watch the Malkah Notman oral history »

Malkah T. Notman is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a Psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (formerly Beth Israel Hospital), and faculty of the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute. She has served as a Training and Supervising Analyst and as the Chair of the Education Committee and President of the Boston Psychoanalytic Institute and Society. She has also been President of the American College of Psychoanalysts and Councilor-at-Large of the American Psychoanalytic Association as well as a past-president of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. Notman’s research interests focus on adult development, including the development and psychological functioning of women, in particular reproductive-psychological issues and the psychological aspects of new reproductive technologies. She is known for her many publications such as the three volume opus, The Woman Patient, co-edited by longtime collaborator Carol Nadelson, with whom she also edited Physician Sexual Misconduct.

In her oral history Dr. Notman discusses the importance of her relationships with mentors, including leaders such as Grete Bibring as well as peers; navigating her career path; taking risks; handling work-life balance; and her research, including a longitudinal study of the mental health of women who had undergone abortions, among other topics.

The Archives for Women in Medicine has launched a new and improved online portal for oral histories which utilizes the Center’s new digital collections site, OnView. This new portal allows you to watch the videos right in your web browser by simply clicking “play,” rather than having to download the videos to your computer as with our previous system. We hope you’ll explore and enjoy the new online Women in Medicine Oral Histories.

New Acquisition: the Anne B. Young Papers

By , January 9, 2013
Physician Photo

Anne B. Young, M.D., Ph.D.

Anne Buckingham Young (1947- ), B.A., 1969, Vassar College; M.D., 1973, and Ph.D., 1974, Johns Hopkins University Medical School, is a researcher, clinician, and educator in the field of Neurology. Dr. Young has acted as Chief of the Neurology Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and as the Julieanne Dorn Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School since 1991. She is the first woman to be appointed chief of service at Massachusetts General Hospital and the second woman to be elected president of the American Neurological Association.  Her research is focused primarily on neurotransmitter systems in the basal ganglia and their role in Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases; along with her late husband, John B. Penney, Jr., Young developed one of the most widely cited models of basal ganglia function.  In 2001 she founded the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease.  Dr. Young is the only person to act as president of both the International Society for Neuroscience and the American Neurological Association.

Young grew up in the North Shore suburb of Chicago and attended medical school at Johns Hopkins in a combined M.D./Ph.D. track. She and her husband, John B. Penney, took residences at the University of California-San Francisco in the late 1970s and began working with patients with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease. Starting in 1981, Young and Penney, until his death in 1999, were involved with the long-term study of a large family on the shores of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. The family had many and multi-generational incidences of Huntington’s Disease. The biological specimens from this study helped researchers in the United States to discover the genetic marker for Huntingon’s Disease in 1983 and the main gene in 1993. Young’s work has also resulted in a widely used model of basal ganglia function.

The Anne Young papers, 1969-2007, consist of grants and research records, correspondence, presentation and lecture materials, and other items related to Young’s work on neurodegenerative diseases. Notably, the Anne Young papers also include one of our largest acquisitions of electronic records to date – comprised of over 8 GB of digital images, manuscripts, and other files documenting Dr. Young’s work.

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