Pioneer Doctor and Educator of Women in the Medical Professions

Dr. Mary Harris Thompson (1829–1895) was one of the first women to practice medicine in Chicago, and by some accounts the first female surgeon in the US. She was founder, head physician and surgeon of the Chicago Hospital for Women and Children, founder of the Women's Medical College, the first medical school for women in the Midwest, and Chicago's first nursing school.

Early Years
Mary Harris Thompson was born …

Doctor and Teacher for the Freedmen's Bureau

Unable to serve as an Army Surgeon because of her gender, Dr. Esther Hill Hawks educated newly freed slaves on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. After the war, she established Florida's first interracial school, but in January 1869 her new schoolhouse was torched; she returned to New England to practice medicine.

Esther continued teaching after the colony's decline, but in January 1869 a new schoolhouse was torched and in 1870 she returned to …Read More...

Civil War Women in Medicine

Image: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker in the male attire she so loved to wear

It is unclear how many women were working as physicians in the United States before the Civil War. At that time, medical students commonly studied under an established physician and did not attend a formal medical school. Many women learned their medical skills from husbands and fathers, and then assisted the men in private practice.

During the antebellum years, an …

Doctor and Educator in the Civil War Era

Emily Blackwell (1826–1910), physician and educator, was the second woman to earn a medical degree at what is now Case Western Reserve University, and the third woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. Dr. Blackwell, with her sister Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and their colleague Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, established the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, the first hospital for women and children in the United States.

Early Years

Women in Medicine: Second African American Female Doctor

In 1867, Rebecca Cole became the second African American woman to receive an M.D. degree in the United States. Despite incredible sexism and racism, Cole persevered as a doctor, becoming a tireless advocate for medical rights for the poor, particularly for black Americans who were mostly ignored by the white medical establishment.

Image: Drawing of Dr. Rebecca Cole

The second of five children, Rebecca Cole was born on March 16, 1846 in …Read More...

First African American Woman Doctor

Rebecca Lee was born in Delaware in 1833. An aunt in Pennsylvania, who spent much of her time caring for sick neighbors, raised her. Due to her aunt's influence, Rebecca developed a strong compassion for the sick at a very young age, and learned to care for ill patients. The first formal school for nursing did not open until 1873, so she performed her work without any formal training.

By 1852, she moved …