Celebrating 10 Years of the Archives for Women in Medicine

By , December 14, 2015

On November 3, 2015, over 70 people gathered in the Waterhouse Room in Gordon Hall to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Archives for Women in Medicine and the 2015-2016 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellowship Lecture.

The event opened with remarks from Center for the History of Medicine Director Scott Podolsky and a brief history by Archives for Women in Medicine Project Archivist Joan Ilacqua.

The celebration continued with a talk by Amalie Kass and Eleanor Shore on the life of Anne Pappenheimer Forbes, a pioneer in endocrinology, a Harvard Medical School Professor at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and a mother of five. Kass and Shore’s recent Harvard Medicine article A Woman’s Work is available online. Several members of the Forbes family were also in attendance to expound on the many talents and achievements of “Nan.”

Eleanor Shore and Amalie Kass speaking at "Celebrating 10 Years of the Archives for Women in Medicine"

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

Anne "Nan" Pappenheimer Forbes (front row, third from left) in a 1954 photo of the Fuller Albright endocrine lab.

Anne “Nan” Pappenheimer Forbes (front row, third from left) in a 1954 photo of the Fuller Albright endocrine lab.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The celebration was also the occasion of the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine’s yearly fellowship lecture. 2015-2016 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine fellow Louella McCarthy’s talk Born International. Women, Medicine, and Modernity explored Australian women’s role in professional societies nationally and internationally. McCarthy was in residence at the Center researching the roles played by medical societies in women’s changing place in the medical profession, with a focus on the influence of American medical women on growing international networks of professional societies in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Louella McCarthy presenting “Born International. Women, Medicine, and Modernity”

The Center for the History of Medicine is so pleased to celebrate the many achievements of the past ten years of the Archives for Women in Medicine, a program created not only to address the gaps in documentary evidence of women leaders in medicine, but also to continue as an inspiration for future women in medicine.

A video of the 10th Anniversary Celebration is available here, and a portion of Ilacqua’s remarks are posted below.


 

As you may know, Harvard Medical School has a history regarding women students and faculty members.

Although women gave instruction at Harvard Medical School as early as 1910, including Myrtelle Canavan, Louise Eisenhardt, and Emma Moors, the first woman full professor was Grete Bibring, a clinical professor of psychiatry promoted in 1958. As for students, the earliest documentation of a woman student requesting to attend lectures was Harriot Kezia Hunt in 1847. It wasn’t until 1945 that the first class of women was allowed to attend Harvard Medical School, as a result of a lack of qualified male applicants during World War II. Even then women students were accepted on a ten year trial basis to see if women could be productive and successful medical students.

As you can see, women have thrived at Harvard Medical School, and now about 50% of incoming students are women, a parity reached in the 1990s. Today, 17% of full professors at Harvard Medical School are women. Our own Dean Jeffrey Flier has pointed out this disparity in his recent Wall Street Journal article entitled The Gains—and Obstacles—to Women in Medicine. Flier goes on to point out that approximately 30% of today’s physician workforce is women, and even fewer of those women are physicians with medical school appointments. If we’re training classes of equal numbers of men and women, what can we do to support women in academic medicine?

This is where the Archives for Women in Medicine program comes in. The Archives for Women in Medicine began after a records survey at the Center for the History of Medicine showed that out of about 900 faculty paper collections, less than 20 were created by women and only one was open to researchers. If there is no documentation of women leaders in medicine, how do we write the history of their achievements?

The Archives for Women in Medicine was created to address that gap in documentation, collect the papers of Harvard’s first generation women leaders in medicine and science, provide access to collections, and promote and celebrate women’s achievements in science and medicine.

As we look forward to the future of the Archives for Women in Medicine, we continue to build a community of interested and engaged people who will support and use our collections, we continue to build our holdings to recognize the achievements and impact of women in medicine at Harvard Medical School and beyond, and to build upon our partnerships and create new collaborations to support, expand, and engage the Archives for Women in Medicine.

 

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