Doctor or Doctress?

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A published booklet containing a speech given by Dr. Joseph Longshore, a founder of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, on the occassion of the College’s opening in 1850.

Why It Matters

Dr. Joseph Longshore was a supporter of many reform movements, including women’s rights. His sister-in-law, Hannah, desired to study and practice medicine; he encouraged her to do so, and she worked as his apprentice before becoming a member of the first class of Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. Female Medical College was the first medical school in the United States founded exclusively to train women as physicians and grant them medical degrees. It was founded, funded, and staffed by a group of reform-minded, predominately Quaker men (including Joseph Longshore). This community of men who supported women's right to education and professional careers were essential to the early success of Female Medical College.

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  • According to Longshore, why should women be trained as doctors?
  • What was so important about the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania?

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In order to satisfy the imperative demands, of the same laudable desire, on the part of educated and intelligent females, The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania has been instituted. The demand for this institution being so universal, so pressing, and so extensively appreciated, the Legislature of Pennsylvania…granted it a charter as broad and as liberal as any in the state, and at the same time entitled to privileges, and vested with powers equal to the most favored Medical School in the country. Where is the woman [who is ill and in need of care], that would not have esteemed it a high favor to have had an accomplished, educated female attendant, who from her very nature was capable of and feeling for and sympathizing with her? That the exercise of the healing art, should be monopolized solely by the male practitioner…can neither be sanctioned by humanity, justified by reason, [nor] approved by ordinary intelligence; prejudice, bigotry, and selfishness may dispute woman’s claim to the high calling, but an enlightened liberty, and intelligent sense of justice, never. That woman, from the acuteness of her perception, correctness of her observation, her cautiousness, gentleness, kindness, endurance in emergencies, conscientiousness and faithfulness to duty, is not equally, nay, by nature abundantly better qualified for most of the offices of the sick room, than man, very few will venture to contradict… Do the women of Pennsylvania, of America, duly appreciate the relation on which they stand to this magnificent enterprize? Can they realize the vastness of this project? Have they yet become impressed with the great truth – that in this Institution is the germ of their emancipation from mental bondage and physical suffering? … Will you accept or reject them? If you elect the former, then gather around us, with your influence and support – strengthen our hands – aid us in our struggle for your redemption and elevation, and millions yet unborn will rise up and call you blessed!