Women’s History Month: Women in Medicine

If you go into any hospital, medical complex or health clinic and no one is surprised if they happen to be seen by a women medical practitioner. Women work in a variety of positions throughout the field of medicine, but this has not been without a huge struggle to reach this point and it is still not always easy. Below is an outline of those the pioneered and paved the way for women in medicine. This gives a good perspective on how far we have come and that we need to be grateful to those fought hard for what they believed in.

1847 – Harriet Hunt…The first woman to submit her application to Harvard Medical School was submitted by Oliver Wendell Holmes, who was then dean, the faculty agreed but the students objected. Eventually she her persistence allowed her to obtain an M.D. degree in Syracuse as a homeopathic physician. She even became a professor of midwifery and of diseases of women and children at Rochester College.

1849 – Elizabeth Blackwell…Was turned down by several schools, but persisted until she gained admission to The Geneva College of Medicine and became the first woman in the US to receive her medical degree.

1850 – The first medical college for women opens…The Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania

1857 – The first hospital operated by women is established…The New York Infirmary for Women and Children

1864 – Rebecca Lee Crumpler becomes the first African-American woman to become an MD

1870 – University of Michigan is the first state school to openly admit women into medical program

1889 – Susan La Flesche Picotte becomes first Native American woman in US to receive a medical degree

Susan La Flesche Picotte, Women Pioneer in Medicine

Susan La Flesche Picotte

1899 – In the US more than 7,000 women are practicing physicians

1903 – Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie and physicist Henri Becquerel…in 1911 she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

1914 – Alice Hamilton is the first woman to be appointed to the faculty of Harvard Medical School

1925 – Florence Sabin, MD is admitted as the first woman into the National Academy of Sciences

1943 – Margaret Craighill, becomes the first woman doctor to join the US Military

1945 – The first class of women is admitted to Harvard Medical School


1945 Harvard Medical School - First Class to Allow Women

1945 Harvard Medical School – First Class to Allow Women


1947 – Gerti T. Cori is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in the category of medicine or physiology

1969 – Louise Gloeckner is elected AMA vice president, the highest ranking woman in the organization to date

1973 – AMA publishes the first Directory of Women Physicians in the United States

1977 – Rosalyn Yalow is the second female Nobel laureate in medicine

1989 – The AMA Women in Medicine staff office is opened

1999 – Catherine DeAnge lis, MD is appointed editor-in-chief of The Journal of the American Medical Association

There are many, many more women who have worked hard in the field of medicine so that they could help others and have the opportunity to practice their passion to heal and better people’s lives. The US National Library of Medicine has a wonderful interactive resource that allows you to explore and learn about women in medicine. Click on the image below to visit this informative site:

Women Changing the Face of Medicine, US National Library of Medicine

Women Changing the Face of Medicine


Resource Links


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