Category: Archives for Women in Medicine

Remembering Amalie Kass

By , June 10, 2019

It is with great sadness that I report that Amalie Moses Kass passed away on May 19, 2019. Amalie was a great friend to the Archives for Women in Medicine and Countway Library, both as a patron but also as a researcher and writer. Amalie was a lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and a historian of medicine. She published Midwifery and Medicine in Boston: Walter Channing, M.D., 1786-1876 (a short biography of Dr. Channing written by Amalie was published in Harvard Magazine) and co-authored Perfecting the World: The Life and Times of Thomas Hodgkin, MD with her late husband Edward H. Kass.

Amalie (right) and Eleanor Shore speaking at “Celebrating 10 Years of the Archives for Women in Medicine”

Amalie was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1928, and attended Wellesley College. She received her master’s degree in education from Boston University, and spent many years teaching high school in Newton. In addition to her position at Harvard Medical School, she was the first woman to chair the Massachusetts Historical Society’s board, and served as an associate editor for the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. In addition to her academic pursuits, Amalie raised eight children. She had five children with her first husband, Malcolm Hecht Jr., and welcomed three stepchildren when she married fellow widower Edward H. Kass in 1975.

I met Amalie in 2015 when I became the Archivist for Women in Medicine. She and her research partner, Eleanor Shore, were working on a piece about the life of Anne Pappenheimer Forbes (1911-1992). Dr. Forbes was a pioneer in endocrinology, a Harvard Medical School professor, and a mother of five. Eleanor and Amalie dove into the Forbes papers and painstakingly looked at every document in the collection in order to illuminate her story. The duo were fixtures in the reading room, and their tireless efforts led to an article in Harvard Medicine and a presentation at the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Archives for Women in Medicine attending by many of the Forbes children and other descendants.

Next, the research duo moved on to Mary Ellen Avery (1927-2011). Dr. Avery was the first woman to head a major clinical department at Harvard Medical School and physician-in-chief at Boston Children’s Hospital; among her many achievements and contributions, her identification of surfactant saved the lives of countless premature babies suffering from respiratory distress syndrome. Amalie and Eleanor’s meticulous research led to an article on Dr. Avery’s life and achievements, published in the Harvard Magazine.

Amalie (left) and Eleanor, conducting research in the archives, from The Benefactor, Spring 2017

Amalie’s presence and dedication to highlighting the overshadowed achievements of women will be missed at the Center for the History of Medicine. Her passion for the history of medicine and telling these stories was only matched by her generosity. A 2016 $500,000 gift from Amalie has supported advancing the mission and work of the Archives for Women in Medicine to collect, preserve, and share the achievements of women leaders in medicine. Her philanthropy, in addition to her research in the archives, has empowered the history of medicine to inform and shape contemporary medicine and society. I can only hope that her legacy will inspire others to follow in her footsteps.

May 16: Measures of Power? Gender, Phrenology and 19th Century Cultures of Medicine

By , May 6, 2019

Measures of Power? Gender, Phrenology and 19th Century Cultures of Medicine

Join us for the 2019 Fellow’s Lecture with Carla Bittel, PhD, Associate Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University

Illustrated diagram of the phrenological faculties from How to Read Character by Samuel Roberts Wells, 1890.

Phrenology, considered a “science of the mind” in the nineteenth century, purported to measure the “power” of human mental faculties. This talk will examine the role of gender in the making of those measurements, and demonstrate how middle-class women—as practitioners and consumers—merged phrenology with multiple forms of medical and domestic knowledge.

May 16, 2019
4:00 – 4:30pm – Reception / Meet and Greet
4:30 – 5:30pm – Welcome and Lecture
5:30 – 6:00pm – Reception Continues

Minot Room, fifth floor
Countway Library of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
10 Shattuck Street, Boston MA 02115

Free and open to the public, registration is required. Register online now through Eventbrite.

Sponsored by the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation, in partnership with the Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library.

About Carla Bittel, PhD

Carla Bittel, Ph.D.

Carla Bittel is Associate Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a historian of nineteenth-century America, specializing in the history of medicine, science, and technology.

Her research focuses on gender issues and she has written on the history of women’s health, women physicians, and the role of science in medicine.

Bittel is the author of Mary Putnam Jacobi and the Politics of Medicine in Nineteenth-Century America, published with the University of North Carolina Press in 2009. She has published in the journals Centaurus and Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and contributed to the edited volume, Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine.

Her research has been supported by several grants, including a Scholar’s Award from the National Science Foundation. She is also a co-organizer of the Working Group, “Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge,” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

2019-2020 Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Fellowship

By , February 21, 2019

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Research Fellowship

Deadline May 15, 2019

Details

First class of women accepted to Harvard Medical School, 1945. (HMS, Classes and Reunions, 00100.057)

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation is pleased to provide one $5,000 grant to support travel, lodging, and incidental expenses for a flexible research period between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. 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 engage specifically with the history of women physicians, other health workers, or medical scientists; proposals on the history of women’s health issues will also be considered
  • those who are using collections from the Center’s Archives for Women in Medicine; however, research on the topic of women in medicine using other material from the Countway Library will be considered
  • applicants who live beyond commuting distance of the Countway; however, all are encouraged to apply, including graduate students

In return, the Foundation requests a one page report on the Fellow’s research experience, a copy of the final product (with the ability to post excerpts from the paper/project), and a photo and bio of the Fellow for web and newsletter announcements. The Fellow will also be asked to present a lecture at the Countway Library.

Application Requirements

Applicants should submit a proposal (no more than five 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 recommendations by May 15, 2019. The fellowship proposal should demonstrate that the Countway Library has resources central to the research topic.

Applications should be sent to: The Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellowship, 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 chm@hms.harvard.edu or (617) 432-2170.

Partnering Organizations

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation, formerly the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine, was founded with the strong belief that understanding our history plays a powerful role in shaping our future. The resolute stand women took to establish their place in these fields propels our vision forward. We serve as stewards to the stories from the past, and take pride in sharing them with the women of today. Our mission is to preserve and promote the history of women in medicine and the medical sciences, and we look forward to connecting you to our collective legacy that will empower our future.

The Archives for Women in Medicine is a program of the Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The Archives for Women in Medicine actively acquires, processes, preserves, provides access to, and publicizes the papers of women physicians, researchers, and medical administrators. Learn more about collections open to research on our Archives for Women in Medicine Collections page.

Established in 1960 as a result of an alliance between the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical Library, the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is the largest academic medical library in the United States. The Countway Library maintains a collection of approximately 700,000 volumes. The Center for the History of Medicine’s collection of archives and manuscripts, numbering between 15-20 million items, is the largest collection of its kind in the United States. The manuscripts collection includes the personal and professional records of physicians from the medieval and Renaissance periods through the twentieth century, including the professional papers of many renowned Harvard faculty members as well as physicians and scientists from New England and around the country.

The 2018-2019 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Research Fellow is Carla Bittel. Previous fellows include Maria Daxenbichler, Jordan Katz, Kate GrauvogelLouella McCarthyRebecca KluchinCiara BreathnachCarrie Adkins, and Hilary Aquino.

Rose E. Frisch Papers Open to Research

By , February 4, 2019

~This post was co-written by Faith Plazarin, processing intern, and Hanna Clutterbuck-Cook, processing assistant.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the Rose E. Frisch papers, 1921-2014 (inclusive), are open to research.

Rose E. Frisch (1918-2015) was born in the Bronx in New York. She graduated with her B.A. in 1939 from Smith College, which was partly financed by the Leopold Schepp Foundation, an organization founded by the entrepreneur and philanthropist Leopold Schepp for students in need of financial assistance. Frisch graduated with her M.A. from Columbia in 1940 in Zoology, and finally her Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Wisconsin in 1943.

Rose worked on the Manhattan Project beginning in 1943. She was a computer doing calculations under Kitty Oppenheimer. After the bomb dropped, she left Los Alamos and returned to Boston to work in academia, where Frisch shifted her research focus from animals and reproduction to women’s reproduction. Her area of specialization was the relationship between fat content and female fertility as well as the links between fat content and breast cancer.  Her subjects were usually athletes, including ballerinas, runners, and swimmers, or those with lower fat content, such as women in underdeveloped areas of the world or women who suffered from anorexia nervosa. Frisch was one of the few women in her field of reproductive medicine. She laid the groundwork for the discovery of leptin, a protein hormone involved in the processes she researched. While leptin was not discovered until 1997, in the 1960s Dr. Gordon C. Kennedy of Cambridge University conducted initial experiments relating to a lipostat in rats.  Leptin was later to be discovered and connected to the lipostat’s function. Frisch was involved in confirming the results of Dr. Kennedy’s experiments and were linked to leptin and its connections to fertility over 30 years later. Frisch spent almost her entire academic career at Harvard University, where she taught as an Associate professor of Population Sciences and a worked as a researcher of the Center for Population Studies until she was granted emerita status in 1992.

She was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the John Simon Memorial Guggenheim Foundation. Most of Frisch’s body of published works consists of articles in larger books, journals, or other serial works. However, she was also the lead editor on the scientific volume Adipose Tissue and Reproduction in 1990. Frisch published outside of academia as well. She published a children’s book called Plants that Feed the World in 1966, and a book about her life’s work for a non-academic audience, called Female Fertility and the Body Fat Connection, was published in 2002.  These publications are referenced throughout the collection.

The papers in this collection consist primarily of professional records created and collected by Rose Epstein Frisch during the course of her work as a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health in the Department of Population and Development Studies in Boston, Massachusetts.  The professional papers consist largely of research and reference materials, reprints, publications, and writings. Also included here, are some of her personal records involving her life outside of Harvard, primarily personal correspondence and photographs.

For more information about Rose Frisch, see this article from Schepp Connections Vol. 1 No. 17 2015 (p. 6).

For information regarding access to this collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

Dr. Fe del Mundo

By , November 27, 2018

Fe del Mundo’s 107th Birthday Google Doodle

 

Dr. Fe del Mundo is celebrated in today’s Google Doodle. She was the founder of the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, and she was conferred the rank and title of National Scientist of the Philippines as well as the Order of Lakandula, one of the highest honors given by the Philippines. She is also often called Harvard Medical School’s, or even Harvard University’s, first woman student.

While Dr. Del Mundo was remarkable in many ways, the evidence that she was a medical student at Harvard Medical School is largely anecdotal and not well sourced. As far as my research using Harvard Medical School catalogs and records shows, she earned her Medical Degree from the University of the Philippines Manila in 1933, and in 1936, came to Boston to further her studies in pediatrics. The fact that Harvard Medical School did not admit women students and Dr. Del Mundo already earned her medical degree suggests that she was not admitted as a student, even in error, and I cannot find proof that she graduated from Harvard Medical School.

Instead, it seems more likely that she completed graduate work at Harvard Medical School through an appointment at Boston Children’s Hospital. Women physicians were admitted to courses in the Harvard Medical School Graduate School of Medicine (later called the Courses for Graduates) beginning in the late 19th century. The 1936 announcement of the Courses for Graduates clearly states that women could be admitted to graduate courses: “Women are not admitted to the regular undergraduate classes of the Harvard Medical School. The admission of women to the various courses offered under the department of the School is at the discretion of the instructor in charge of the course. The catalogue usually states in connection with each course whether or not it is open to women.”

There is very little archival documentation about the graduate courses from this period, and no list of enrolled students, but Dr. Fe del Mundo is listed as an Assistant Physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and a Research Fellow in Pediatrics in 1940. Further suggesting that she was a graduate student and not a medical student, in her autobiographical statement in Women Physicians of the World (1977), Dr. Del Mundo explains “I spent three years of my postgraduate studies at the Children’s Hospital in Boston and at Harvard Medical School, one year at the University of Chicago, six months at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and short terms in various pediatric institutions, all to round out my training.”

Furthermore, other women studied at Harvard University before 1936, such as the women who studied at the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers (later the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health) including its first woman graduate Linda Frances James (who completed her certificate in 1917). Two additional women, Ann Hogue Stewart and Hester Balch Curtis, were both awarded the Master of Public Health in 1936.

Given the restrictions placed on student records, and the fact that Harvard Medical School did not celebrate or acknowledge the academic work of women prior to officially accepting women students in 1945, it is difficult to determine if Dr. Del Mundo was Harvard Medical School’s first woman student. Given her degree and course of study, it is unlikely.

If Dr. Fe del Mundo is not the first woman graduate of Harvard Medical School, does that mean her story isn’t important or isn’t a part of Harvard Medical School’s history? No. I cannot yet determine if she was the first Filipina or Asian woman admitted to the Courses for Graduates, but I imagine that she is among the first. Currently, the Center for the History of Medicine, in partnership with the Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership, is funding research on Harvard Medical School’s other “firsts,” searching our archives for evidence of students who represent ethnic and cultural backgrounds that have been historically marginalized. I’m not sure who we’ll find in the archives, but at the conclusion of this project, I hope to surface other stories like Dr. Del Mundo’s. I can only imagine the pushback that a woman doctor from the Philippines may have encountered when she came to Boston in the 1930s. Despite not being Harvard Medical School’s first woman student, Dr. Fe del Mundo is still an important and inspirational figure in the history of Harvard Medical School and the history of medicine in the Philippines.


Please send any questions to Joan Ilacqua, Archivist for Diversity and Inclusion.

Announcement: Archives for Diversity and Inclusion Program

By , November 6, 2018

Members of the Class of 1881 of the Harvard Dental School

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce the Archives for Diversity and Inclusion. Building on the successes of the Archives for Women in Medicine program, the Archives for Diversity and Inclusion will expand in scope to include acquiring the research, teaching, and professional records of underrepresented faculty of Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and Harvard affiliated hospitals.

Joan Ilacqua is Archivist for Diversity and Inclusion at the Center for the History of Medicine. Ms. Ilacqua will partner with members of the HMS/HSDM community to diversify the historical record to include populations underrepresented in medicine (URM), including those who self identify as: Black or African-American; Hispanic or Latino; American Indian or Alaska Native; Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander; Asian; LGBTQ; or as a person with a disability. As a part of the revamped program, she will also continue to acquire the records of leading women in medicine. In the next year, she will implement a strategic acquisitions program by identifying records, archives, publications, and other materials created by groups underrepresented in medicine (URM) professionals affiliated with Harvard with long-term research and evidential value. She also plans robust outreach activities, including engaging an advisory committee and community partnerships, and capturing and sharing the experiences of URM faculty through exhibits, events, and oral histories. Ms. Ilacqua has already conducted oral history interviews with a number of faculty and alumni as part of the Equal Access Oral History Project

Formerly, Ms. Ilacqua was the Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine where she worked to ensure that the history of women leaders in medicine and the medical sciences were recognized in the Center for the History of Medicine’s collections. She serves on Harvard Medical School’s LGBT Advisory Committee, Equity and Social Justice Committee, and Joint Committee on the Status of Women. She won the 2018 Dean’s Community Service Award for her volunteer work with The History Project: Documenting LGBTQ Boston, a volunteer-driven community LGBTQ archives. A graduate of UMass Boston’s Public History master’s program, Ms. Ilacqua is currently enrolled in Harvard extension school’s Nonprofit Management certificate program.

The Center thanks the Office for Diversity Inclusion & Community Partnership, the Joint Committee on the Status of Women, the LGBT Advisory Committee, and the Office for Faculty Affairs for their support of the Archives for Women in Medicine program and the creation of the Archives for Diversity and Inclusion.

Announcing the 2018-2019 Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Fellow

By , September 8, 2018

The Archives for Women in Medicine and Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation are pleased to announce the 2018-2019 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellow: Carla Bittel, Ph.D.

Carla Bittel, Ph.D. 2018-2019 Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Fellow

Carla Bittel is Associate Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is a historian of nineteenth-century America, specializing in the history of medicine, science, and technology. Her research focuses on gender issues and she has written on the history of women’s health, women physicians, and the role of science in medicine. Bittel is the author of Mary Putnam Jacobi and the Politics of Medicine in Nineteenth-Century America, published with the University of North Carolina Press in 2009. She has published in the journals Centaurus and Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and contributed to the edited volume, Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine. Her research has been supported by several grants, including a Scholar’s Award from the National Science Foundation. She is also a co-organizer of the Working Group, “Working with Paper: Gendered Practices in the History of Knowledge,” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Her current work examines the politics of gender and phrenology


The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Fellowship is offered in partnership with the Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation (formerly the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine). Information regarding the Fellowship program is available at http://www.wimlf.org/fellowships and https://www.countway.harvard.edu/chom/archives-women-medicine-fellowships.

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation was founded with the strong belief that understanding our history plays a powerful role in shaping our future. The resolute stand women took to establish their place in these fields propels our vision forward. We serve as stewards to the stories from the past, and take pride in sharing them with the women of today. Our mission is to preserve and promote the history of women in medicine and the medical sciences, and we look forward to connecting you to our collective legacy that will empower our future.

A program of the Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, the Archives for Women in Medicine actively acquires, preserves, promotes, and provides access to the professional and personal records of outstanding women leaders in medicine and the medical sciences.

2018-2019 Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Fellowship: Deadline Extended to June 1, 2018

By , January 12, 2018

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Research Fellowship

Deadline May 15, 2018 Extended to June 1, 2018

Details

First class of women accepted to Harvard Medical School, 1945. (HMS, Classes and Reunions, 00100.057)

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation is pleased to provide one $5,000 grant to support travel, lodging, and incidental expenses for a flexible research period between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019. 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 engage specifically with the history of women physicians, other health workers, or medical scientists; proposals on the history of women’s health issues will also be considered
  • those who are using collections from the Center’s Archives for Women in Medicine; however, research on the topic of women in medicine using other material from the Countway Library will be considered
  • applicants who live beyond commuting distance of the Countway; however, all are encouraged to apply, including graduate students

In return, the Foundation requests a one page report on the Fellow’s research experience, a copy of the final product (with the ability to post excerpts from the paper/project), and a photo and bio of the Fellow for web and newsletter announcements. The Fellow will also be asked to present a lecture at the Countway Library.

Application Requirements

Applicants should submit a proposal (no more than five 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 recommendations by May 15, 2018. The fellowship proposal should demonstrate that the Countway Library has resources central to the research topic.

Applications should be sent to: The Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellowship, 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 chm@hms.harvard.edu or (617) 432-2170.

Partnering Organizations

The Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation, formerly the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine, was founded with the strong belief that understanding our history plays a powerful role in shaping our future. The resolute stand women took to establish their place in these fields propels our vision forward. We serve as stewards to the stories from the past, and take pride in sharing them with the women of today. Our mission is to preserve and promote the history of women in medicine and the medical sciences, and we look forward to connecting you to our collective legacy that will empower our future.

The Archives for Women in Medicine is a program of the Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The Archives for Women in Medicine actively acquires, processes, preserves, provides access to, and publicizes the papers of women physicians, researchers, and medical administrators. Learn more about collections open to research on our Archives for Women in Medicine Collections page.

Established in 1960 as a result of an alliance between the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical Library, the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is the largest academic medical library in the United States. The Countway Library maintains a collection of approximately 700,000 volumes. The Center for the History of Medicine’s collection of archives and manuscripts, numbering between 15-20 million items, is the largest collection of its kind in the United States. The manuscripts collection includes the personal and professional records of physicians from the medieval and Renaissance periods through the twentieth century, including the professional papers of many renowned Harvard faculty members as well as physicians and scientists from New England and around the country.

The 2017-2018 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Research Fellows are Maria Daxenbichler and Jordan Katz. Previously fellows include Kate GrauvogelLouella McCarthyRebecca KluchinCiara BreathnachCarrie Adkins, and Hilary Aquino.

Finding One’s Path on the Road of Research: An Intern’s Journey

By , December 5, 2017

Nina Rodwin, UMass Boston Public History Student

Nina Rodwin is a second-year UMass Boston public history graduate student. Her interest is late 19th-century American history, with a specific focus on women’s history and medical history.  She is currently an intern at the Center for the History of Medicine.


When I started my internship at Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine, my project adviser, Joan Ilacqua, project archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, and I decided to investigate digitized journals between 1900 and 1920 from the Medical Heritage Library’s State Medical Society Journals project to uncover the effects of the 1910 Flexner Report on women’s medical education. The goal of the project was to create a digital exhibit about the state of medical education before and after the Flexner Report to better understand how women medical students and physicians were influenced by Flexner’s recommendations. However, as I conducted my research, I found that this topic connected to multiple issues beyond the question of women’s education in the medical field. These new avenues opened the exhibit to larger questions regarding sex, class, gender, and race during the early 20th century.

In 1908, Professor Abraham Flexner was hired by the Council on Medical Education, (a branch of the American Medical Association) to travel to each American medical school and evaluate the overall institution; from  curriculum, to the number of faculty, to the condition of laboratories and libraries. Flexner’s findings were unnerving and the quality of medical schools varied wildly. Flexner recommended that schools with financial means should emulate the quality of education seen at Johns Hopkins University, one of the first medical schools affiliated with a teaching hospital that also required laboratory experience for all its students. Flexner strongly recommended that schools which could not afford such expensive upgrades be closed.

Modern analysis of the Flexner report shows that his decisions meant that most women’s and Black medical schools were closed, as these institutions often had fewer funds. While medical students in the early 20th century were more likely to learn the latest medical techniques from prestigious institutions, many women and Black medical students were barred from these opportunities, as many schools (including Harvard) openly refused to admit them or admitted them in minuscule numbers. When I began this project, I assumed that these issues would be reflected and discussed in the state medical journals of the time.

I imagined discovering blustering editorials, where the authors would be offended at the very the idea of women entering the medical field. However, I struggled to find any editorial that even mentioned women, yet alone any that excoriated them for being in the field. I found many articles and editorials that dryly reported the progress of medical education and criticized the Flexner Report for its negative conclusions, but none discussed what these changes would mean for women medical students.

Finding little evidence connecting the Flexner Report to women’s education in medical schools was particularly important– it demonstrated that many physicians in the early 20th century were no longer outraged by the idea of women practicing medicine. The research showed that the question for women physicians in the early 20th century was not a debate surrounding their abilities or rights to practice medicine, but was rather a debate surrounding which kinds of medical fields were best suited for women.

The Woman’s Medical Journal, Vol. XV, No. 4. April 1905.

In fact, women physicians during the early 1900s went to great efforts to prove sex discrimination was a relic of the past. This belief however, was often countered by their own experiences, as seen in editorials from The Woman’s Medical Journal. These editorials were especially interesting when compared with editorials from state medical journals, as both used cultural ideas about women, motherhood, and women’s natural abilities to argue for or against women in certain fields. As my research progressed, I was especially drawn to the differences between the Women’s Medical Journal (WMJ) and the Pennsylvania Medical Journal. (PMJ) While both journals contained medical articles, the WMJ also had a social justice slant, advocating for women’s medical education across the world, endorsing a woman’s right to vote, and demonstrating that women physicians were just as capable as their male counterparts. Both journals portrayed women in the medical field, but PMJ often emphasized traditional ideas about a “women’s place.” For example, there are many articles in the PMJ, including this toast given in 1907, about the self-sacrificing wives of male physicians, but no mention of the struggle women physicians faced balancing their social, professional and domestic roles.

Caption from “The Doctor’s Wife,” a speech given by H.J. Bell, MD in 1907.

My research found that the fields of anesthesiology and lab work were seen as ideal place for women physicians. Public health was especially popular for women physicians, as its focus on the household, parenting, dieting, and children’s health were considered extensions of a woman’s natural role as caretaker and mother. However, white women physicians in the field of public health in the early 20th century often advocated for eugenic practices, including limiting marriages to those considered “fit” and the sterilization of those considered “unfit.” So as white women advocated for equality in the medical field, they also encouraged policies that targeted and discriminated women from marginalized groups. While this topic is quite disturbing, I have found this section of my research the most interesting, as the concepts advocating for White Supremacy are very similar both in the early 20th century and today.

I believe that making historical connections to modern events can be a great tool to help connect today’s audiences to the past. The issue of discrimination against women in the workplace is still very relevant today, especially in the medical field. The decisions made by the Flexner Report still affect medical education today. Although women’s enrollment in medical schools was almost evenly split with men in 2016, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and rates of minority student enrollment has increased over time, Latino and Black students only comprise 20% of incoming medical students nationwide although these statistics do not break down minority applicants by gender.  Furthermore, women in the workforce still struggle with societal expectations of motherhood and marriage, making the balance between their personal lives and professional lives much harder. Although my research evolved from a project specifically on the Flexner Report to an analysis of women in medicine in the early 20th century, I hope my forthcoming exhibit can shed light on how far women have come, while reminding my audience that many obstacles remain. I look forward to completing the internship and presenting my findings.

 

 

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