A Vital Force: Women in American Homeopathy

By Anne Taylor Kirschmann | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
The Transformation
of American Medicine
and the Decline of
Homeopathy, 1890–1920

IN 1899, REFLECTING THE WILL of the majority of its members, the American Institute of Homeopathy changed its definition of a homeopathic physician to “one who adds to his knowledge of medicine a special knowledge of homeopathic therapeutics. All that pertains to medicine is his, by inheritance, by tradition, by right.” 1 An 1898 issue of the Cresset, a student publication of the homeopathic New York Medical College and Hospital for Women, defined homeopathy not as a school of medicine but a “reform in one of its departments—the sphere of therapeutics. Homeopathy “has no new anatomy, chemistry, physiology, obstetrics, surgery, pathology, hygiene, or sanitation. It shares all these things with the allopathic school.” 2 By the turn of the century, homeopaths had refashioned their profession as a therapeutic field, supplemental and “additional” to general medicine. 3 However, the choice of the profession's leaders to emphasize homeopathy's similarities to mainstream medicine was not a rejection of its separate identity. Rather, it revealed a homeopathic profession endeavoring to keep pace with the new scientific and professional developments of the Progressive movement.

Within the culture of a new professionalism characterizing the Progressive Era in American history, American universities standardized training for careers, producing professional experts whose voices of authority discouraged independent evaluation by untrained individuals and amateur social reformers. 4 As new and existing professions sought to increase their power and prestige, the medical profession set the standard by reforming medical education, aligning with the states to reinstitute licensing regulations, and creating a national political base. A pioneer in public relations strategy, a reorganized and strengthened AMA succeeded in projecting a favorable public image,

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