The Literature of Prescription (2009)

In the late 19th century, at a time when women were challenging traditional ideas about gender that excluded them from political and intellectual life, medical and scientific experts drew on notions of female weakness to justify inequality between the sexes. Artist and writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who was discouraged from pursuing a career to preserve her health, rejected these ideas in a terrifying short story titled “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” The famous tale served as an indictment of the medical profession and the social conventions restricting women’s professional and creative opportunities.

The exhibition was launched at the National Library of Medicine in 2009 and then traveled the USA. Visit the exhibition website to explore the online version and access educational resources for high school and university students.

Changing the Face of Medicine (2004-2006)

 

Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians (co-curated with Ellen S. More, Ph.D.) is a 4000 sq. ft gallery exhibition displayed at the National Library of Medicine, plus national touring version and website, budget $3 million. The exhibition spanned 150 years of history and included profiles of more than 300 women.

These biographies can be navigated though the themes of the exhibition storyline, or organized as search results for the categories of location, ethnicity, career options, or medical schools.

The exhibition website includes visitors’ own stories of inspiring women physicians, short films and interviews, and educational resources for high school and university-level classes.

Women Physicians and the Cultures of Medicine

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008

This volume examines the wide-ranging careers and diverse lives of American women physicians, shedding light on their struggles for equality, professional accomplishment, and personal happiness over the past 150 years. Leading scholars in the history of medicine chronicle the trials and triumphs of such extraordinary women as Marie Zakrzewska, one of the first female medical graduates in the United States and founder of the New England Hospital for Women and Children; Mary S. Calderone, the courageous and controversial medical director of Planned Parenthood in the mid-twentieth century; and Esther Pohl Lovejoy, who risked her life to bring medical aid and supplies to countries experiencing war, famine, and other catastrophes. Illuminating the ethnic, political, and personal diversity of women physicians, the book reveals them as dedicated professionals who grapple with obstacles and embrace challenges, even as they negotiate their own health, sexuality, and body images, the needs of their patients, and the rise of the women’s health movement.

 

Reviews

A great introduction to the history of women in medicine. It offers fresh disciplinary perspectives on the diverse experience of women physicians in nineteenth- and twentieth-century America. Scholars in women’s history, the history of professions, gender studies, and the history of medicine will profit from reading these engaging essays.”

— Sarah W. Tracy, author of Alcoholism in America: From Reconstruction to Prohibition

“This lively collection of essays will no doubt be enlightening to the current generation of medical students, historians, and scholars.”

— Barbara F. Atkinson – Journal of Clinical Investigation

“Readers will find much to admire in this book. The individual essays, while diverse, are uniformly well written, well-researched, and impressively documented… Highly recommended.”

— Choice

“The book would certainly be helpful for medical historians, of course, but also for any person—woman or man—interested in the past, present, and future role of women in medicine. Readers are rewarded with impressive scholarship and exhaustive, essay-specific bibliographies.”

— JAMA

“Stellar edited collection… Read this book and assign it for class: it succeeds in leaving us informed,inspired, and amazed… It is provocative, deconstructs binaries, shows the personal tolls and struggles faced by these physicians and their use of science, nutrition, professional authority, and maternity (among others) as means to challenge male medical authority and culturally constructed gendered norms.”

— Susan E. Cayleff – Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“This important volume delineates the state of the field in many aspects of the history of women physicians in the United States and points the way to the next steps in research.”

— Kimberly Jensen – Social History of Medicine

“This collection of essays on the history of American women physicians from the nineteenth century to the present provides the latest, state-of-the-art scholarship on the subject… Invaluable.”

— Laura Ettinger – American Historical Review

“A valuable addition to the history of women’s struggle for fulfilling careers in medicine.”

— H. Hughes Evans – Journal of the History of Medicine