From Riding Breeches to Harvard: Stories of the First Female Harvard Chan School Graduate

By , September 27, 2017

Bernice Ende, lady long rider and great-nice of Linda James Benitt, the first woman to graduate from the Harvard Chan School (then known as the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers) shared photographs of Linda’s parents, as well as anecdotes on her early life.

The Center for the History of Medicine was delighted to host the event, “From Riding Breeches to Harvard” on Wednesday, September 20th at the Countway Library. Bernice Ende, great niece of Linda James Benitt, who was the first woman to graduate from the Harvard T.H. Chan School (then the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers), presented findings, photos, documents, and stories from her research on, and relationship with, her “Aunt Linda.” Ende, a lady long rider for over thirteen years, has credited both her mother and her aunt for inspiring her life-long desire to encourage female leadership through long riding.  Dr. Joe Brain, Cecil K. and Philip Drinker Professor of Environmental Physiology, Department of Environmental Health, and Chair of the Harvard Chan School Archives Advisory Committee, welcomed the intimate crowd and shared his experiences working with the committee and the Harvard Chan School Archivist, Heather Mumford, in uncovering the early history of the school.

Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard Chan School, presented on her 2013 "discovery" of Linda James, the first woman to graduate from the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers.

Heather Mumford, Archivist for the Harvard Chan School, presented on her 2013 “discovery” of Linda James Benitt, the first woman to graduate from the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers (precursor to the Harvard Chan School).

Prior to Ende’s presentation, Joan Ilacqua, Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, provided background information on the first women on the Harvard Longwood campus, with a nod to Linda James Benitt’s being the first woman to be credentialed on the same basis as men in 1917 by the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers.

Following Ilacqua’s presentation, Mumford spoke on her discovery of Linda James Benitt in 2013 during the school’s centennial. The results of her early research, primarily conducted through the Minnesota Historical Society, resulted in a two-part blog series, available here. Ultimately these blog posts were what connected Mumford and Ende, and sparked their correspondence over the next three years.


The James family, circa 1920. Photograph courtesy of Bernice Ende.

During her presentation at the Countway, Ende shared family photographs, letters, clippings, and anecdotes which helped paint a more well-rounded perspective of Linda James Benitt, and followed her throughout her life at Harvard and beyond. Common threads, such as a love of horses, a dedication to fighting for women’s rights and highlighting the accomplishments of women, as well as cultivating opportunities for adventure, were also discovered for the first time during the course of her research, and have led Ende to a much deeper appreciation for her great aunt. Ende has written a book on these topics, which is anticipated to be released in 2018. As a very special treat, Bernice Ende’s older sister brought and displayed family photos and artifacts for the audience to enjoy.

For more information on Ende, visit her website:

Staff Finds: Augustus White in Vietnam

By , September 19, 2017
Augustus A. White

Augustus A. White

From 1966 to 1968, Augustus A. White served as a Captain in the United States Army Medical Corps and from August 1966 to August 1967, he was deployed as a combat surgeon at the 85th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon, Vietnam. During his deployment, he volunteered during his off-duty time at the St. Francis Leprosarium, earning a Bronze Star for this work, as well as for a volunteer mission to help retrieve an injured soldier from a mountainside. Subject to a special physicians’ draft, White could have chosen service in the the National Guard, Navy Reserve, or Public Health Service, but instead chose active duty service, as he describes in Seeing Patients:

Here I was, fully trained, after so many years. I couldn’t wait to get out on my own and be what I had worked so hard to be. And where in the world could I do that instantaneously at the highest volume in the most needed place other than Vietnam? Besides, I thought, I’m not going over to kill people; I’m going over to save them. And besides that, how about what I owed? I had grown up during World War II … Our soldiers had protected me then. Shouldn’t I be giving something back?

While in Vietnam and caring for badly injured soldiers, White struggled with feelings of helplessness. Again, from Seeing Patients:

Finding a way to deal with all this emotionally was crucial. If you allowed yourself to get dragged into thinking too much, you’d simply be crushed to pieces. I mulled over the idea of sending a letter and photos to Lyndon Johnson. I composed the letter in my head a dozen times, thinking about what words might have the most dramatic effect. I tried to figure out how I might actually get it to him so he would read it. I imagined getting him and other world leaders down into a MASH unit operating room before they’d be allowed to start their wars. Grab them by the collar and force them to watch a terrified young man writhing in pain with his legs mangled or his belly ripped up. But of course that was just escapist fantasy. The reality was that there wasn’t the slightest thing I could do to stop what was going on.

The Augustus A. White papers, 1951-2010 (inclusive), contain records related to White’s service in Vietnam. This includes typed and annotated excerpts from White’s diary kept during his Vietnam service, detailing his day-to-day thoughts and activities, including his work at the leprosarium (see below for diary excerpts and a letters from his commanding officer John Feagin). The collection also contains copies of his articles “Vietnam Memoirs: River of Blood” and “Notes and Impressions at Vietnam Memorial”, drafts of a manuscript about his experiences in Vietnam, and an after action report (see below for excerpts) detailing the air transfer of a badly wounded soldier from Vietnam to Walter Reed Hospital, Washington D.C.

The finding aid for the White papers can be found here.

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

Announcing the 2017-2018 Women in Medicine Legacy Foundation Fellows

By , September 11, 2017
Maria Dazenbichler

Maria Daxenbichler

Maria Daxenbichler is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo. She holds a Magistra Artium degree in American Studies from Leipzig University, Germany, and a M.A. in American Studies from the Transnational Studies department at the University at Buffalo. Her dissertation investigates how medical researchers in the U.S. changed the field of gynecology between the 1880s and 1920s. Through developing new and allegedly safe abortion techniques, they strengthened their authority over women’s health, reproduction, and medical treatments. They then shared their new knowledge with medical and nursing students in teaching hospitals, thus helping to further professionalize the medical field and establish the authority of formally trained practitioners. She also received a research fellowship from the University of Illinois at Chicago for this project.

Ms. Daxenbichler plans to utilize the Records of New England Hospital for Women and Children, Records of Boston Lying-In Hospital, Peter Bent Brigham Hospital Records, George Richard Minot Papers, Edward Peirson Richardson Papers, and the Papers of James Read Chadwick.


Jordan Katz

Jordan Katz

Jordan Katz is an advanced doctoral student in the Department of History at Columbia University. She specializes in early modern Jewish history, with interests in Jewish cultural history, history of science, and Jewish communal autonomy. Her dissertation examines the role of Jewish midwives and medical women within communal and intellectual frameworks in the early modern Ashkenazic world. She is also interested in culinary history and historical reconstruction.

Ms. Katz has received fellowships from the Center for Jewish History and the Leo Baeck Fellowship Programme – Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes. Her work has been published in Jewish Quarterly Review.

At the Center, Ms. Katz will consult several 16th and 17th century midwifery treatises including Samuel Janson’s 1680 Korte en Bondige verhandeling, van de voort-teeling en t’ kinderbaren met den aenklave van dien.

We look forward to hosting both fellows at the Center this year!


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 and

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.


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.

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