In Her Own Words: Oral Histories of Women Physicians

In Her Own Words: Oral Histories of Women Physicians

In Her Own Words: Oral Histories of Women Physicians

In Her Own Words: Oral Histories of Women Physicians

Synopsis

Oral histories of nine women physicians document the female experience in 20th-century medical practice, integrating historical narration, editorial summation, and personal testimony of women physicians.... The book approaches significant feminist and political issues in a highly readable fashion... full women emerge, displaying varying backgrounds and choices. An introductory essay offers a superb historical encapsulation of the professionalization of American medicine and women's concomitant efforts to reestablish a place for themselves within that formal--and uninviting--setting. Highly recommended for college and university collections. Choice

Excerpt

When the young audience attending the fall session of Geneva Medical College in upstate New York listened to the Dean of the Faculty one morning in 1847, they probably only dimly comprehended the historical significance of the gentleman's words. In quavering tones, he spoke to them of a letter from a prominent physician in Philadelphia and sought their response to the writer's unconventional request.

For several months the physician had been preceptor to a lady student who had already attended a course of medical lectures in Cincinnati. He wished her to have the opportunity to graduate from an Eastern medical college, but his efforts in securing her acceptance had thus far ended in failure. A country college like Geneva, he hoped, would prove more open-minded. If not, the young woman's only other recourse would be to seek training in Europe. As the Dean spoke, a silence fell upon the room. For several moments the students sat transfixed as he concluded his remarks with the comment that the Faculty would accede to the request only if the students favored acceptance unanimously.

The students themselves did not realize that the Faculty was emphatically opposed to the admission of a woman. Not wanting to assume the sole responsibility for denying the request, they had thought that the students would reject the proposal, and they planned to use the actions of a united student body to justify their own response.

Steven Smith, then a bright young member of the class and later a prominent New York physician and public-health advocate, witnessed the ensuing events. Over half a century later, at a memorial service for his longtime friend and colleague, Elizabeth Blackwell, he recalled:

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