« AnteriorContinuar »
children and their own sex, will be be called a farce. I am sorry that Geadmitted I hope by all.”—Rt. Rev. neva should be the first to commence Bishop Potter, 1850.
the nefarious process of amalgamation. The profession was quite too full before."--Letter by D. K. to
Boston Journal, Feb. 1849. “We have long been persuaded “Thé bare thought of married fethat both morality and decency re- males engaging in the medical proquire female practitioners of medi- fession is palpably absurd. It carcine. Nature suggests it ; reason ries with it a sense of shame, vulapproves it ; religion demands it.”— garity, and disgust. Nature is reNorthern Christian Advocate, 1850. sponsible for my unqualified opposi
tion to educating females for the medical profession.” – Dissert. on Female Phys. by N. Williams, M.D., read before a Ñ. Y. Med. Soc., June
6, 1850. “ This is one of the most impor “Females are ambitious to dabble tant projects of the day for the im in medicine as in other matters, with provement of the condition of wo a view to reorganizing society.”— men.”- Zion's Herald, 1850.
Edit. Boston Med, and Surg. jour.,
1852, p. 106. “The employment of men as “The serious inroads made by fe‘midwives' is a modern custom, male physicians in obstetrical busiand one not to be commended.”— ness, one of the essential branches of Phil. Saturday Post, 1850.
income to a majority of well established practitioners, make it natural enough to inquire what course to
pursue.”— Ibid., Feb. 1853. These parallel columns might be extended much further, did our space permit. We cannot, however, pass by the following gem of eloquence from an English source, but quoted in the Cincinnati Lancet and Clinic for 1881. It is from the address at the British Medical Association by the President of that year :
"I am not over-squeamish, nor am I over-sensitive, but I almost shudder when I hear of things that ladies now do or attempt to do. One can but blush, and feel that modesty, once inherent in the fairest of God's creation, is fast fading away. You gentlemen, who know the delicacy of women's organization, -you must know that constitutionally they are unfit for many of the duties of either doctor or nurse.
“May not habit so change that fine organization, that sensitive nature of women, as to render her dead to those higher feelings of love and sympathy which now make our homes so happy, so blessed ?
“Will not England's glory fade without its modest sympathizing women, and its race of stalwart youths and blooming maidens ?
“You now, gentlemen, know my views as to the propriety of ladies becoming doctors or nurses.”
The Fourth period of woman's medical history was initiated when Mr. Gregory, supported by the popular enthusiasm he had aroused, succeeded in opening a School of Medicine (so called) for women, in Nov. 1848. The first term lasted three months : a second term began the following April, 1849 ;and with the announcement for the second year it was declared that the twenty pioneer pupils had not only followed the lectures, but" had attended above 300 midwifery cases with the most satisfactory success.'
In the prospectus issued for the second year of the school, Mr. Gregory brought forward a new set of arguments in its support, in addition to those previously adduced. There was then (1849) in New England, a surplus female population of 20,000 persons,-and "hundreds of these would be willing to devote any necessary length of time to qualify themselves for a useful, honorable, and remunerative occupation.” They could afford, moreover, to give their services at a much cheaper rate than men, charging about a third the ordinary fees,thus $5 instead of $15 for attendance on a confinement case.
Thus not only would the morals of the community be preserved, but the burdens on its purse be considerably lightened by the employment of educated women as obstetricians. As the medical profession had just become keenly alive to the peculiarly lucrative character of obstetrical and gynæcological practice, this suggestion that it might now profitably be undersold naturally aroused the keenest resentment. It was soon retorted that the cheaper practitioners were to be prepared by a system of education so cheap as to be absolutely worthless; and unfortunately the early history of the first medical schools for women entirely justified this accusation.
To support Mr. Gregory's school, a Female Medical Education Society was formed in Boston, and incorporated with a state charter. Nothing seemed at the outset fairer than the promises of the new college,—but it had one fatal defect. There was no one connected with it who either knew or cared what a medical education should be. It followed that, under
* Is it possible not to seem to hear, from some quiet corner of dispassionate observation, the echo of the immortal “Fudge !” which so disturbed the complacency of the innocent Vicar of Wakefield ?
+“ To Massachusetts is due the credit of establishing the first medical school for women in the world.”—Chadwick, “ The Study and Practice of Medicine by Women,” International Review, October, 1879.
the name of medical education, was offered a curriculum of instruction, so ludicrously inadequate for the purpose, as to constitute a gross usurpation of the name,-in a word, to be an essentially dishonest affair. And still more unfortunately, the same inadequacy, naïvely or deliberately unconscious of itself, continued in greater or less degree, to characterize all efforts for the isolated medical education of women for the next twenty years. This, the fourth period of their medical history,-deserves therefore to be considered by women rather as a pre-medical or preliminary epoch; where purposes were enunciated that were only to be fulfilled many years later.
The Gregory Medical School maintained a precarious existence until 1874, when, by an enabling act of the Legislature, the funds were handed over to the Boston University, just founded, -upon condition that women should be admitted to the medical department of the latter. This condition was punctually fulfilled ; women students were rendered eligible to all departments of the new university. But as the medical school, for some reason, became exclusively homopathic,—the fortunes of medical women in the regular profession were not thereby greatly advanced.*
Now, however, the movement for women had widened and reached Philadelphia, where two schools were started. One of these, the Penn Medical School, ran a permanently unenviable career of unfitness, and was finally extinguished. The other, the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, was founded in 1850, and after a long and precarious period of struggle, finally touched upon a solid basis of medical realities, and thence began its prosperous modern career. In the mean time, and fortunately for the cause, a new departure had been taken in several other directions. The Gregory School had been founded with the avowed intention of educating women for
* On two other occasions did these fortunes become associated with those of homeopaths. When in 1869 the State University of Michigan opened its medical department to women, the Legislature simultaneously ruled that two professors of homeopathic medicine must be appointed in the school. And when in 1886 the trustees of the Boston City Hospital inquired into the propriety of admitting female medical students, they reported at the same time upon the application of homeopathic physicians, to be appointed in the medical service of the wards. At this point, however, the fortunes of the two classes of applicants diverged: the first request was granted ; the second refused.
The class of 1890 of the Boston University School only contains nine women,
midwives ; and it did not succeed even in this limited aim, because it was either ignorant of or indifferent to the rigid system of education imposed, wherever, as in Europe, midwives are recognized and educated. In America, where hostility to class distinctions is so profound as to interfere with the recognition of even the intellectual distinctions which are alone just,-it was probably a foregone conclusion that the various ranks in medicine which exist in European countries would never here become officially established. * But a startlingly long step was taken at a stride, when, thirty years after the pæan of victory had been sounded over the complete suppression of female midwifes, so that not even this corner of possi. ble medicine might remain in possession of women,-that then, half a dozen women, unknown to each other, and widely separated in this immense country, should appear almost simultaneously upon the scene, and demand the opportunity to be educated as full physicians. Their history marks a fifth period in the movement.
The first of this remarkable group of women was Harriet K. Hunt of Boston.
This lady had for several years assumed the responsibility of practicing medicine, while yet unprovided with a medical diploma. This was reprehensible, but from a practical standpoint, the course seems to have been justified by subsequent events. For when, in 1847, Miss Hunt requested permission to attend lectures at the Harvard Medical School, her request was promptly refused. After the graduation of Elizabeth Blackwell at Geneva in 1849, Miss Hunt thought that the times might have become more favorable, and, in 1850, repeated her application at Harvard. In mobile America, three years may sometimes effect such a change in sentiment as would require three centuries in the Old World. On this occasion, five out of the seven members of the Faculty voted “That Miss Hunt be admitted to the lectures on the usual terms, provided that her
* Thus in France,-docteur en médecine, officier de santé, sage femme; In England, -physician, surgeon, apothecary. The midwife in England, was, until recently, assumed not to exist ; but as she existed nevertheless, she became all the more dangerous because uncontrolled. “At present date, 60 per cent. of poor women are attended in their confinements by midwives, uninstructed and uncultivated, -probably 10,000 in number. The fatal results to both mothers and children arising from the ignorance of these midwives is notorious. They must either be annihilated or instructed.”—Dr. Aveling, writing to Gen. Med. Council, 1873.
The Obstetrical Society of London now undertakes to instruct and examine midwives.
admission be not deemed inconsistent with the statutes." * A week later, the President and Fellows of the University an: nounced that the statutes of the Medical School offered no obstacle to the admission of female students to their lectures. But, on the eve of success, Miss Hunt's cause was shipwrecked, by collision and entanglement with that of another of the unenfranchised to privileges. At the beginning of the session, two, and later a third, colored man, had appeared among the students, and created by their appearance intense dissatisfaction. When, as if to crown this outrage to gentlemanly feeling, it was announced that a woman was also about to be admitted, the students felt that their cup of humiliation was full, and popular indignation boiled over in a general meeting. Here resolutions were adopted, remonstrating against the “ amalgamation of sexes and races." The compliant Faculty bowed their heads to the storm, yielded to the students, who, though young and inexperienced, were in the majority, and might possibly withdraw in a body to Yale,—and, to avoid the obloquy of rejecting, under pressure, a perfectly reasonable request, advised the “female student” to withdraw her petition. This she did ; the storm subsided, and the majesty of Harvard, already endangered by the presence of the negro, was saved from the further peril of the woman. Miss Hunt returned to her private medical practice, which, though unsanctioned by law and condemned by learning, was so successful that, in 1872, she celebrated her silver wedding to it.fi
Thus, on this first occasion, it was not a sentiment of delicacy that forbade the Harvard students to share their privileges with a woman; but a sense of offended dignity of sex, which distinctly allied itself with the other and equally touchy dignity of race. The odd idea was advanced on this, as on so many other occasions, that whenever a woman should prove herself capable of an intellectual achievement, this latter would cease to constitute an honor for the men who had previously prized it. Hence the urgent necessity of excluding women from all opportunity of trying. I
* Drs. Jacob Bigelow and James Jackson voted in the negative. The latter had been the physician to introduce into Boston the midwife, Mrs. Janet Alexander. So it would seem that his objection was not to women, but to educated women, who might aspire to rank among regularly educated men physicians.
+ The details of Miss Hunt's application to Harvard are dispassionately related by Dr. Chadwick, loc. cit.
# When, in 1872, the London University, after a two years' bitter contro