Doctor or Doctress?

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Copy of a letter to Hannah Darlington from Ann Preston, 1851. Hannah Darlington was a fellow Quaker from Chester County, who, like Preston, was involved in the abolition movement. In her letter to Darlington, Preston discusses her health, her enthusiasm for her studies, lectures she has attended, and mutual friends.

Why It Matters

Preston’s account of WMCP faculty member Dr. Moseley’s rejection by the Philadelphia Medical Society indicates that widespread acceptance of women doctors had not been achieved. Her excitement of learning a new field of study in a stimulating atmosphere and discussion of her other intellectual pursuits, intertwined with her support of abolition and women’s rights, reflects the dynamism of this era in of rapid social change and experimentation, marked by new social standards and roles for women.

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Analyze this evidence

  • How does Preston feel about studying medicine? Why do you think she refers to Female Medical College as an “experiment” that some people think will fail?
  • What does the term “blackballing” mean? Why was there an attempt by the Philadelphia Medical Society to “blackball” Dr. Moseley?

Listen to this document read aloud

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Hannah, my dear friend, I do not think there has been any day since I came here that I have not thought of thee, thy generous interest in my welfare and I feel sure thee will be willing to receive even a few hurried lines when I can give nothing more… The joy of exploring a new field of knowledge, the rest from accustomed pursuits and cares, the stimulus of competition, the novelty of a new kind of life, are all mine, and all for the time possess a charm. And then, I am restful in spirit and well satisfied that I came. The lectures will close in about three weeks for the season but it is contemplated to commence again in Sept, nor does there appear to be any foundation for the rumor that the experiment will fail and the College be closed after this session. There is a considerable and increasing apparatus and the Professors seem enthusiastic and to have their hearts in their business. As an evidence of the spirit of opposition to this institution that prevails among the medical profession I will mention that Dr. Moseley the demonstrator of Anatomy without his knowledge or consent was lately proposed as an honorary member of the Philadelphia Medical Society, solely as it appeared for the purpose of blackballing him, which was done under circumstances of peculiar and gratuitous insult, because of his connection with a female college.