Date of Award

Winter 5-7-2012

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

B.S.

Department

History

Faculty Advisor

Marsha L. Richmond

Abstract

For my honors thesis, I discuss the history of women in American medicine during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In particular, I focus on how the social and cultural time periods affected women’s efforts in pursuing further medical education, how these women were perceived and treated by not only their male colleagues, but also the outside world, how it affected their future career choices in medicine, and finally, how their efforts ended up changing the medical career path for future female generations.

It begins with a discussion of the variety of obstacles, both private and public, that hindered women from entering the medical field. For some women, it was the responsibilities at home that left them little time and energy to pursue higher education. For others, it was simply a lack of access to the right opportunities and resources required to apply to medical school. During this time period, many medical schools and associations prohibited the acceptance of women. Certain homeopathic and sectarian schools were more accepting of women, although numbers were still limited.

It continues with a discussion of what the medical education, academic and social life, and opportunity were like for the women who did enter medical school. Here, I examine specific case studies of women who were students at this time. I include these women’s background information, their stories during medical school, as well as their career choices after graduation. I also discuss how the achievements of these women helped to gain increasing acceptance of women into medical school.

Finally, I conclude with a discuss of how these accomplishments helped shape the future of medical education and practice for women, as well as how and why women in medicine are still facing some of these challenges in their careers today.

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