Restoring the Balance: Women Physicians and the Profession of Medicine, 1850-1995

By Ellen S. More | Go to book overview

5
Getting Organized: The Medical
Women s National Association
and World War I

The remedy for segregation is organization… Organization outside
the profession has accomplished much; organization of women
within the profession will be equally effective and will hasten the day
when it can be truthfully said, “There is no sex in Medicine.”

Bertha Van Hoosen, Editorial, Woman’s Medical Journal,
May 1916.

BY WORLD WAR I, the decades-long efforts to reform medical education, reinstitute state licensure for physicians, and attract practitioners into a reenergized American Medical Association came to fruition.1 In the face this “consolidation of professional authority,” as sociologist Paul Starr terms it, a few influential women physicians, including Bertha Van Hoosen and Marion Craig Potter, became convinced that the needs of women in medicine were being overlooked.2 Between 1908 and 1915 they quietly urged their female colleagues to found a national women’s medical association to bring about professional equality while preserving women doctors’ traditional claim to a uniquely feminine approach to the health of women, children, and the family.

The annual AMA Women’s Banquet, organized in 1908 by the Women’s Medical Societies of Chicago and the State of Illinois, provided an excellent venue for Van Hoosen and Potter to begin this effort. (Potter’s sister, Dr. Sarah Buckley of Chicago, also was among the organizers.) Potter gave the after-dinner speech on the subject of organization. Drawing on her experience organizing the Women’s Medical Society of New York State in 1907, she spoke “eloquently… in favor of

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