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Conditions as They Were
When I Studied Medicine

April 8, 1916 — Luncheon in her honor by Faculty and Trustees of the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women, Delmonico’s, New York City


Students of today have no idea of conditions as they were when I studied medicine. It is difficult to realize the changes that have taken place. I attended the first meeting when this institution was proposed, and was graduated from the first class. We had to go to Bellevue Hospital for our practical work, and the indignities we were made to suffer are beyond belief. There were 500 young men students taking post-graduate courses, and we were jeered at and catcalled, and the ‘old war horses,’ the doctors, joined the younger men.

We were considered aggressive. They said women did not have the same brains as men and were not trustworthy. All the work at the hospital was made as repulsively unpleasant for us as possible. There were originally six in the class, but all but two were unable to put up with the treatment to which we were subjected, and dropped out. I trembled whenever I went to the hospital and I said once that I could not bear it. Finally the women went to the authorities, who said that if we were not respectfully treated they would take the charter from the hospital.

As a physician there was nothing that I could do that satisfied people. If I wore square-toed shoes and swung my arms they said I was mannish, and if I carried a parasol and wore a ribbon in my hair they said I was too feminine. If I smiled they said I had too much levity, and if I sighed they said I had no sand.

They tore down my sign when I began to practice, the drugstores did not like to fill my prescriptions, and the other doctors would not consult with me. But that little band of women made it possible for the other women who have come later into the field to do their work. When my first patients came and saw me they said I was too young, and they asked in horrified tones if I had studied dissecting just like the men. They were shocked at that, but they were more shocked when my bills were sent in to find that I charged as much as a man.

I believe in women entering professions, but I also believe in motherhood. For the normal woman it is no more of a tax to have a profession as well as a family life, than it is for man to carry on the multitudinous duties he has outside the family. I had three sons of my own and two adopted ones, and I am as proud of my motherhood as of my medical career. I gave as much of my personality to my children in an hour than some mothers do in ten. My children honored me and have been worthwhile in the world.



Source: The New York Times, April 9, 1916.