Popular Science Monthly/Volume 18/December 1880/Early Practice of Medicine by Women
|←The August Meteors|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 18 December 1880 (1880)
Early Practice of Medicine by Women
By Henry Carrington Bolton
|Methods in Industrial Education→|
By Professor H. CARRINGTON BOLTON, Ph.D.,
OF TRINITY COLLEGE, HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT.
IN attempting to sketch the history of the entrance of women into the medical profession, we find the earlier periods obscured by a meagerness of material and a lack of sequence which our superficial researches have failed to supplement.
Isolated cases of gifted women attaining notable surgical skill and successfully pursuing the divine art of healing are recorded at various epochs in the history of the intellectual development of woman, but they occur at long intervals of time and in widely scattered chronicles. In the following pages we have not undertaken to present an exhaustive history or catalogue of female practitioners of medicine; we have simply collected a few scattered notices, and molded them into an outline to be hereafter filled up by a more competent hand.
These notices refer to the earlier history only, and by earlier history we mean the period prior to the establishment of medical schools for women, and to the present movement for their higher education. From the earliest times women have successfully grappled with a most difficult branch of medical science, gynecology, but long-existing and deep-seated prejudices prevented an extension of their practice, and save in exceptional cases they were forbidden both the acquirement of accurate and systematic knowledge and the exercise of their chosen vocation. So long as the practice of medicine formed a part of the priestly functions, as in ancient Egypt, the crafty guardians of superstition sedulously concealed their superior knowledge from an ignorant and credulous people, and especially from women. Yet the story of the birth of Moses shows that female gynecologists were not unknown to the Egyptians.
At a later period the Greeks thought to add dignity to the practice of medicine by forbidding it to slaves and (forsooth!) to women. During the middle ages, when every branch of science was more or less dishonored by degrading superstitions, we find women, as well as men, yielding to their influence and exercising the double calling of sorceress and healer of the sick; nor has the intelligence of the common people even in the nineteenth century reached such a height as to render the business of medical clairvoyant nugatory and profitless.
The invention of medicine was almost universally attributed by the ancients to the gods, and it is a curious fact that in both Egyptian and Grecian mythology we find female deities occupying important relations to the healing art. To the Egyptian deity Isis, the wife and sister of Osiris, peculiar medical skill was attributed^ and a multitude of diseases were regarded as the effects of her anger. According to tradition she had given unequivocal proof of her power by the restora- tion of her son Orus to life. She was the reputed discoverer also of several remedies, and even as late as Galen the materia medica con- tained several compounds which bore her name: thus, in the symboli- cal language of the Egyptian priestly physicians, the vervain was called the " tears of Isis."
According to the annals of Grecian mythology, Hygeia, daughter of ^sculapius, the god of medicine, was worshiped in the temples of Argos as the goddess of health. In art, Hygeia is represented as a virgin wearing an expression of benevolence and kindness, and hold- ing in one hand a serpent which is feeding from a cup in the other. She was regarded as the goddess both of physical and mental health, thereby personifying the aphorism, "Mens sana in corpore sano." The Greeks also ascribed medical power to Juno, who, under the name of Lucina, was held to preside over the birth of children, and to Ocy- ro?, daughter of the Centaur Cheiron, who was renowned for his skill in surgery and medicine. The sorceresses Medea and Circe were said to make use of herbs in their enchantments and for the purpose of counteracting the effects of poisons. These and similar fables prob- ably preserve in allegoric form facts connected with the practice of medicine by women in the remotest antiquity. The writings of Homer have been examined to ascertain his testimony, but, with the exception of slight reference to woman's part in nursing wounded warriors, he contributes nothing to the subject under consideration.
The learned among the Celts, the Druids, were at the same time judges, legislators, priests, and physicians. By persuading the people that they maintained intimate relations with the gods, they succeeded in imposing their authority on the ignorant masses. "Their wives, who were called Alraunes, exercised the calling of sorceresses, causing considerable evil by their witchcraft, but caring for warriors wounded in battle. They gathered those plants to which they attributed magic virtues and they unraveled dreams " (Dunglison),
The first female practitioner who received a medical education appears to be Agnodice, a young Athenian woman who lived about 300 B. c. To satisfy her desire for knowledge she disguised herself in male attire, and, braving the fatal results of detection, dared to attend the schools of medicine forbidden to her sex. Among her instructors was numbered Herophilus, the greatest anatomist of antiquity and the first who dissected human subjects. After completing her studies, Agnodice preserved her disguise and practiced her chosen calling in the Grecian capital with great success, giving particular attention to the diseases of her own sex. The physicians of Athens becoming jeal- ous of Agnodice's great reputation and lucrative practice, summoned her before the Areopagus, and accused her of abusing her trusts in dealing with female patients. To establish her innocence, Agnodice disclosed her sex, and her persecutors then accused her of violating the law prohibiting women and slaves from studying medicine, but the wives of the most influential Athenians arose in her defense and even- tually obtained a revocation of the law.
The laws and customs of the Romans, as well as of the Greeks, were antagonistic to the entrance of women into the medical profes- sion, yet Galen, Pliny, and others have preserved the names of a few distinguished in the art of healing: Phpenarete, the mother of Socrates, Olympia of Thebes, Salpe, Sotira, Elephantis, Favilla, Aspasia, and Cleopatra. Of these, details are generally wanting. Scribonius Largus writes of an " honest matron " who cured several epileptic patients by an absurd remedy, and mentions having purchased of a woman a prescription for the cure of colic, the composition of which she had learned in Africa. Why Aspasia appears iu this connection is not perfectly clear; the talented wife of Pericles, renowned as " a model of female loveliness," was doubtless too involved in affairs of state to undertake the absorbing cares of the medical profession. Cleopatra, the accomplished and luxurious Queen of Egypt, of whom so many marvels are related, is named among those women possessed of medi- cal skill; she is rej)orted to have compounded cosmetics and to have written on the art of preserving beauty, but this statement is probably no more worthy of credence than that of the infatuated alchemists of the middle ages, who would persuade us that Cleopatra was the for- tunate possessor of the philosopher's stone and of the universal sol- vent. In proof of the former statement, they point to her personal at- tractions, unchanged by increasing years, and to her immense wealth; in proof of the latter, they rely with confidence on the well-known fable of the solution of the costly pearl at the extravagant banquet to Marc Antony.
In a Roman lady named Fabiola we find an early pi-edecessor of Florence Nightingale. She was of the illustrious house of Fabius, and was celebrated in the fourth century for piety and charity. She is to be held in grateful remembrance as the founder of hospitals in Italy, and she is said to have personally nui'sed the sick at Ostia. The establishment of hospitals is commonly credited to the Emperor Julian, 362 A. D., with whom Fabiola was contemporary; perhaps she took an active part in the humane movement, and held a position analogous to that of lady manager in modern times.*
Half a century later lived a woman justly distinguished for com- bining in one person a high degree of female loveliness, womanly vir- tue, and intellectual strength: though not occupied with the art of
- Celsus, who wrote in the reign of Augustus (a. d. 1), mentions large hospitals where
patients were treated with specific medicines. (Milligan's Ed., p. 14.) Seneca also refers to them as " valetudinaria." VOI-. XVIII. 13 healing, we can not pass in silence the accomplished Hypatia. Born at Alexandria in the latter part of the fourth century, the daughter of Theon, an eminent mathematician and philosopher, she soon excelled her father in these branches of learning. After profiting by profound studies under celebrated masters at Athens and Alexandria, she pub- licly taught philosophy at both these centers of culture. Gibbon writes of her, "In the bloom of beauty and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples." On Hypatia's inhuman murder at the instigation of the jealous Cyril and his fanatical followers, it is not here necessary to dwell.
The practice of medicine by women obtained to some extent during the middle ages. Under the influence of Mohammedan rule, women were placed in excessive isolation, and it is not surprising to find under these circumstances that certain women were skilled in attending to the requirements of their own sex. Thus Albucasis, of Cordova, one of the most skillful surgeons of the twelfth century, secured the ser- vices of properly instructed women for assistance in operations on females in which considerations of delicacy intervened. Avicenna also, writing of remedies for diseases of the eyes, mentions a collyrium compounded by a woman well versed in medical science. On the whole, however, the number of women instructed in medicine among the Arabs was very small, owing possibly to the inferiority to which women were condemned by Eastern usages.
In Christian countries the nuns as well as the pi'iests attended to the healing of the sick as an act of charity and piety. Abelard, in the twelfth century, permitted the practice of surgery to those of the con- vent of the Paraclete, over which Heloise presided. The most cele- brated of the learned nuns was Hiidegarde (a. d. 1098-1180), abbess of the convent of Rupertsberg, near Bingen on the Rhine. She compiled a sort of materia medica, which comprises a variety of superstitious remedies. Radegonde of France, the founder of a convent at Poitiers (died 587), the pious ascetic Elizabeth of Hungary (died 1231), Hed- wigia, wife of Henry the Bearded, and other women who devoted themselves to the care of the sick, may be properly regarded as praise- worthy exemplars of Christian benevolence rather than educated prac- titioners of medicine.
In the famous school of medicine established at Salernura by Bene- dictine monks in the eleventh century, we find women taking an im- portant part. Ordericus Vitalis, in his " Ecclesiastical History " (writ- ten about 1130), relates that an abbot eminent in natural sciences-, and especially distinguished in medicine, visited Salernum in the year 10.59 for the purpose of discussing medical topics, and found no one erudite enough to reply to his propositions save a certain woman of great learning. This woman he does not name, but she is supposed to be the same as Trotula of Ruggiero, whose reputation at that period was world-wide. At Salernum, women were engaged in the preparation of
\ drugs and cosmetics, and in the practice of medicine among persons of both sexes: such were Abella, author of two medical poems; Costanza Calenda, the talented and beautiful daughter of a skillful physician, under whose instructions she attained to a doctor's degree; Mercuriade, author of several treatises; Rebecca Guarna, Adelmota Maltraversa, and Marguerite of Naples, who obtained royal authority for practicing the medical art. (Beaugrand, in "Diet. Encyc. Sci. Medicales.")
The ancient and honorable universities of Italy were, we believe, the first to recognize the capacity of women to give instruction of a high character. The University of Bologna, founded in 1116, was at- tended in the year 1250 by ten thousand students, engaged m the study of jurisprudence, of philosophy, and of medicine. "Here was first taught the anatomy of the human frame, the mysteries of galvanic electricity, and later the circulation of the blood." Here, too, were the earliest successful experiments in admitting women to occupy pro- fessorial chairs, for a long line of female professors taught in many departments of learning.*
As early as the thirteenth century two women were numbered among the eminent professors of the University of Bologna, Accorsa Accorso and Bettisia Gozzadini, the former held the chair of Philoso- phy, the latter that of Jurisprudence. In the fourteenth century the lovely and learned Novella d' Andrea, daughter of a distinguished law- yer, often took her father's place in the professorial chair, and instruct- ed his students in law. Of Novella it is reported that she was so beautiful that she lectured behind a curtain, "lest, if her charms were seen, the students should let their young eyes wander over her exquisite features and quite forget their jurisprudence." The rival University of Padua, founded in 1228, had also its female representatives. Of these the most distinguished was Elena Lucrezia Cornaro. This in- teresting woman was born at Venice, June 5, 1646, and at a very early age exhibited an extraordinary capacity for acquiring languages. She was familiar with French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, besides her native Italian, and had some acquaintance with Arabic. While endowed by nature with poetical and musical talents, she possessed at the same time great perseverance and capacity for serious studies, and discoursed eloquently on abstruse topics in philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and theology. At the age of thirty-two, the University of Padua conferred upon her the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Cornaro seems never to have held any public position, being naturally of a retiring disposition, and moreover exceedingly devoted to the order of St. Benedict. After acquiring a European reputation, she died at the comparatively early age of thirty-eight (1684).
The beginning of the following century witnessed the birth of one
- According to Madame Villari, whose papers on the " Learned Women of Bologna "
furnish us with many of the succeeding data, there is to the present day no law prevent- ing women from graduating at Italian universities or taking professorial positions. of the most gifted women tlie world has ever seen. Laura Caterina Bassi was born at Bologna, October 31, 1711. She was the daughter of a distinguished lawyer and litterateur, and at a tender age manifested extraordinary precocity, being able while still a child to translate flu- ently most difficult Latin and Greek. Encouraged by her father, she pursued her studies under the guidance of eminent masters; she leai'ned physiology and medicine with the erudite physician Gaetano Tacconi, mathematics with Manfredi, and natural philosophy with the disciples of Gassendi, and she astonished these profound philosophers by her talents. Laura Bassi studied for the pure love of knowledge, and had no ambition to seek public honors, but, to gratify the pardonable pride of a father as well as the earnest desires of her instructors, she con- sented to support a philosophical thesis before a learned audience of professors. This event took place on the ITth of April, 1732, before she had reached the age of twenty-one years. The occasion was made one of festivity by the whole city, who turned out to do her honor; the assemblage was presided over by two cardinals, Lambertini, after- ward Pope Benedict XIV, and Grimaldi.
According to custom her thesis was opposed by seven learned men; to these she replied in elegant Latin with great success and amid the applause of the distinguished audience. A month later the degree of Doctor was conferred upon her, and she was honored by a position in the Faculty of Philosophy. The Senate subsequently bestowed upon her the chair of Physics, and commemorated the event by striking a medal which bore her own portrait. She held the professorship twenty-eight years with marked success, paying particular attention to mathematics and physics, also to helles-lettres. Several academies of learning elected her to membership. In 1738 she was married to J. J. Veratti, a physician, and became in the course of time the mother of twelve children. A learned French litterateur who visited Bologna in her day thus describes her appearance: "Laura Bassi has a counte- nance slightly marked with sraall-pox, but of a sweet and modest ex- pression; her black eyes are sparkling, yet tranquil, and she is serious and composed in demeanor without affectation or vanity. Her memory is tenacious, her judgment sound, and her imagination active." She died in the year 1778, at the age of sixty-seven.
Laura Bassi does not seem to have pursued medical studies, and cer- tainly never engaged in practice; but any account of the gifted women of Bologna who labored in this direction would be incomplete without a brief notice of Madame Veratti.
Contemporary with this interesting woman lived another, less gifted but scarcely less renowned. Anna Morandi was born at Bologna five years later than Laura Bassi, and died four years earlier. She became the wife of Giovanni Manzolini, a poor, hard-working maker of ana- tomical models. Manzolini was an expert painter and modeler in wax, and was emj^loyed by one Lelli to construct a series of anatomical models for the use of the professors in the Institute of Bologna. Anna not only aided her husband, but soon surpassed him in skill, and par- ticularly in that scientific knowledge upon which the success of their joint labors so largely depended. About this time Giovanni Antonio Galli, a skillful surgeon and Professor of Gynecology, opened a school of obstetrics in his house, and, encouraged by him, Anna began to lec- ture on anatomy to private classes. In these lectures she not only im- parted with peculiar talent the knowledge derived from her husband, but she also communicated many discoveries made by herself. So great was her skill in all dissections requiring delicacy of touch and minuteness of detail, and so clearly did she demonstrate both theoreti- cally and practically the wonderful structure of the human body, that she rapidly acquired a European reputation, and her lecture-room was frequented by students of all countries.
In 1755 Anna Manzolini became a widow, and was left with very slender means of support, but her good qualities raised up friends who secured for her a comfortable subsistence. Though she received tempt- ing offers from other Italian universities, and even from England and Russia, she preferred to remain in her native city, Bologna. Not long after her husband's death she was appointed to the chair of Anatomy in the Bologna Institute.
Anna Morandi-Manzolini enjoys the distinction of having been the first " to reproduce in wax such minute portions of the human body as the capillary vessels and the nerves." Her collection of anatomical models, still to be seen at the Institute of Science, bears silent testi- mony to her remarkable skill and accurate knowledge. "Her lectures w-ere delivered in the fragrant cedar hall which is one of the modern sights of Bologna and in which Lelli's anatomical wooden figures sup- porting the canopy over the professorial chair attract general admira- tion." In the anatomical gallery of the university is to be seen her portrait in wax, modeled by herself at the request of many admiring friends. Anna ]\[anzolini closed a laborious and honored life in 1774, at the age of fifty-eight years.
The city of Bologna, in the middle of the eighteenth century, saw three gifted women simultaneously occupying seats in the faculty of its ancient university. Besides Laura Bassi and Anna Morandi-Man- zolini, of whom we have briefly spoken, Maria Gaetano Agnesi was equally distinguished.
Maria Agnesi was born at Milan, March 16, 1718. At an early age she manifested a remarkable facility for acquiring languages, and when only twenty years old was able to discourse in French, Spanish, Ger- man, Greek, and Hebrew, besides her mother-tongue. She displayed marked ability also in philosophy and mathematics, and while still young sustained one hundred and ninety-one theses which were after- ward printed under the title " Propositiones Philosophicse." In 1748 Agnesi published a treatise on algebra, including the differential and integral calculus, in which she displayed wonderful judgment and eru- dition. This work (" Instituzioni Analitichi ") was afterward translated by Colson, the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, and was used by the students of that university. In 1750 her father, who was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Bologna, fell sick, and she obtained permission of the good Pope Benedictus XIV to oc- cupy her father's chair. In person Agnesi is said to have been beau- tiful, modest, and of pleasing manners. Her severe studies overtaxed her delicate frame, and shortly after she renounced the world and took refuge among the Blue Nuns at Bologna. In this nunnery she lived several years a devotee and an invalid; she died in 1799.
While Laura Bassi taught physics, Anna Morandi-Manzolini anat- omy, and Maria Agnesi mathematics, in the Bolognese University, we might naturally expect the gentler sex to avail themselves of the opportunity of studying under their sisters' instructions. And such, in fact, was the case: the names of some of these students are recorded by the historian, many of whom received the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Medicine. In 1799 Doctor Maria delle Donne appears as Professor of Medicine and Obstetrics; Clotilda Tambroni was Professor of the Greek Language and Literature, from 1793 to 1808. To these names should be added those of Novella Cal- derini, Maddalena Buonsignori, Dorotea Bocchi (who was both doctor and professor), Christina Roccati, Ph. D., Zaffira Ferretti, M. D., Maria Sega, M. D., and numei-ous graduates of Padua, Pavia, Ferrara, and other Italian universities.
Leaving the Italian Peninsula, which was so productive of re- markable personages, we will briefly examine the position of women pi'actitioners of medicine in other parts of Europe.
Beaugrand states that the most ancient document extant relative to the organization of surgery in France forbids the practice of surgeons and oi female sui'geons who have failed to pass a satisfactory examina- tion before the proper authorities. This paper bears the date 1311. References to female surgeons appear again in an edict of King John in 1352; from these documents it appears that women exercised the function of surgeon under legal authority. At a somewhat later period we find the calling of physician followed by women in Spain, Germany, and England.
In Spain, the Universities of Cordova, Salamanca, and Alcala honored many women with doctors' degrees. We note also the ap- pearance at Madrid in 1587 of a learned medical work entitled " Nueva filosofia de la naturaleza del hombre," and published over the name Olivia del Sabuco. Of this person, however, nothing whatever is cer- tainly known, and it has been conjectured that the name Olivia was a pseudonym assumed by some eminent physician.
In Germany many women cultivated medical science: Barbara Weintrauben was an author of no great merit; the Duchess Eleanor of Troppau, Catliarina Tissheim, Helena Aldegunde, and Frau Erxleben are deserving passing notice. The last mentioned was one of the most successful female practitioners of the last centuiy. Her maiden name was Dorothea Leporin, but she is best known as Frau Erxleben. Frau- lein Leporin pursued her medical studies at the University of Halle, and obtained a diploma in 1734. She settled in the little town of Quedlinburg, at the foot of the Hartz Mountains, became the wife of the rector of the Church of St. Nicholas in the same place, industriously- practiced her profession, and became eminent for her skill and learn- ing. Her son, J. C. P. Erxleben, inherited from his mother a love of scientific pursuits and became a distinguished naturalist and professor in the University of Gottingen.
In England, Anna Wolley and Elizabeth of Kent were occupied with the preparation of drugs as early as the seventeenth century, and both published works on medical subjects.
In this hasty and superficial sketch of the history of the early practice of medicine by women we would not be true to the facts if we omitted mention of certain ignorant and vulgar women who as- sumed medical knowledge and medical skill to impose upon a too credulous public. That avaricious women, fond of notoriety and care- less of their reputation, should imitate the methods adopted in every age by unprincipled men, is not surprising^ though it may be mortify- ing. To this class belonged Louise Bourgeois, nurse to Marie de' Medici, the Queen of Henry IV of France; though an ignorant char- latan, she acquired extraordinary influence over her royal patroness, and her career abounds in curious, eventful episodes. She was the author of several medical treatises on the diseases of women, one of which was published at Paris in 1617.
A century later another female practitioner flourished, of whom women have no reason to be proud. In the year 1738 Mrs. Joanna Stephens proclaimed in London that she had discovered a sovereign remedy for a painful disease. Notwithstanding her gross ignorance and vulgar demeanor, she secured a large circle of patients from among the upper and wealthy classes, and, after enriching herself by enor- mous fees drawn from their credulity, she proposed to make her medi- cal discovery public in consideration of the modest sum of twenty-five thousand dollars^ A subscription was started for this pui-pose and enthusiastically taken up; the clergy, lords, and ladies, with an inex- plicable infatuation, hastened to add their names to the list of sub- scribers. Failing, however, to raise so large a sum of money, Mrs. Ste- phens's friends obtained a grant of the desired amount from Parlia- ment. The certificate testifying to the "Utility, Efficacy, and Dis- solving Power of the Medicines," bears the date March 5, 1739, and is signed by twenty justices. These dearly purchased remedies were three in number, "a Powder, a Decoction, and Pills." The powder consisted of calcined egg-shells and snails; the decoction was a disgusting mixture of herbs, soap, and honey, boiled in water; and the pills were made of "calcined wild-carrot seeds, burdock-seeds, ashen keys, hips, and haws all burned to a blackness soap and honey."
Contemporary Avith Mrs. Stephens lived another impostor, Mrs. Mapp, sometimes known as " Crazy Sally of Epsom," and described as an "enormously fat, ugly creature, accustomed to frequent country fairs, about which she loved to reel, screaming, abusive, and in a state of beastly intoxication." This attractive lady was by pi-ofession a bone-setter, and was patronized by patients of rank and wealth, who sought her charily bestowed favors with ill-disguised contempt of her person. The town authorities of Epsom greatly esteemed Mrs. Mapp, or, perhaps we should say, highly valued the benefit the town derived from the influx of wealthy patients, and they offered her the sum of five hundred dollars per annum if she would continue to reside in the town.
The fii'st half of this century has witnessed the career of a few women eminent in the art of healing; in France Madame La Chapelle had an extensive gynecological practice, and Madame Boivin attained to such distinction that she was honored with the degree of Doctor of Medicine by the University of Marburg. In Germany Charlotte Hei- denreich and Fran Heiland, her step-mother, were similarly honored with doctors' diplomas.
It is the glory of America that she is distinguished above all coun- tries not only as the cradle of liberty but also as the foster-mother of the intellectual advancement of women. Yet this has not always been the case; in the early chronicles of the colonists (themselves refugees from persecution) we find, strangely enough, many laws of an exacting and repressive character, some of which were aimed directly at the ambition and zeal of women. In the famous Blue Laws of Connecti- cut the following curious entry occurs under the date of March, 1638: "Jane Hawkins, the wife of Richard Hawkins, had liberty till the beginning of the third month called May, and the magistrates (if shee did not depart before) to dispose of her; and in the mean time shee is not to meddle in surgery or phisick, drinks, plaisters or oyles, nor to question matters of religion except with the Elders for satisfaction." (" True Blue Laws of Connecticut," by J. H. Trumbull, 1876.)
A hundred and forty years later we find marked progress in lib- erality in the State of Connecticut. As early as 1773, in the town of Torrington, Litchfield County, two women were greatly honored and much sought for on account of their remarkable skill as accou- cheuses. The first of these, Mrs. Jacob Johnson, to quote the historian of Torrington (Rev. Samuel Orcutt), was as thoroughly known and trusted in her profession as any physician that was ever in the town. "She rode on horseback, keeping a horse for the special purpose, and traveling night and day, far and near," to meet her engagements. "She kept an account of the number of cases she had, and the success of the patients, and the new-comers, and of these last there is at least one livins: in the town. In the midst of her usefulness she was re- moved by death, and it became a great inquiry, ' AVho will take the place of Granny Johnson? ' " This question was answered in the person of Mrs. Huldah Beach, daughter of Aaron Loomis, Jr., more success- fully than was anticipated. Mrs. Beach became as celebrated in her calling as Granny Johnson, and continued to attend to her professional duties until an advanced age. She was a woman of remarkably fine personal appearance and decided dignity of carriage, yet marked kind- liness of manner. Her intellectual strength and ability were percepti- ble to every one, and she in consequence commanded great respect in all classes of society, and won the confidence of the people so that but few calls were made on any other physician in her specialty, on the western side of the town. She also rode as far as Winchester, Goshen, and Litchfield.
Dr. Orcutt, whose " History of Torrington " has furnished us with these particulars, remarks in this connection, "Many have imagined that, in the practice of medicine by women, a new era has arrived, but in this there is only a ' restoration of the lost arts.' "
Our allotted task is completed, yet we can not close this address without a brief survey of the pi-esent period, in which the facilities afforded women in all branches of learning contrast strongly with the formerly wellnigh insurmountable impediments and obstacles.
Women desirous of acquiring medical knowledge are no longer obliged to disguise themselves in male attire like Agnodice the Athe- nian, nor are practitioners liable to suffer the penalties of the law for their works of benevolence and charity. In 1880 the young woman with aspirations for intellectual culture finds open to her such excel- lent training-schools as Holyoke, Wells, and Rutgers, such- noble insti- tutions as Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley. Does she not shrink from contact with her brothers, she may gain entrance into many universi- ties, either expressly founded in a liberal spirit, as Oberlin, Cornell, and Ann Arboi-, or which have yielded to the steady pressure of pub- lic opinion, and now open their doors more or less widely to the gen- tler sex. To enumerate the latter would be tedious and unprofitable; suflice it to say that even venerable and aristocratic Harvard has lately joined the number, and our own Columbia, should her President's views prevail, will not be slow to follow.
The young woman who seeks intellectual training of a more tech- nical character, with a view to adopting a professional career, will find many avenues opening up with constantly increasing privileges and facilities. The student in art, thanks to the philanthi-opy of our ven- erable citizen, Peter Cooper, can, without incurring expense, acquire a knowledge of designing or of wood-engraving which will hardly fail to secure for her a competence. The student in biology will receive her share of attention at a summer school of science on our Atlantic seaboard, or held in connection with some enterprising institution of learning. The student in pharmacy and chemistry can conduct her researches on an equality with men, or, if she prefer, in laboratories controlled and officered in large part by women themselves.
The student in medicine now gains access to medical colleges in nearly every State in the Union, and the legitimacy of her pursuit as well as her ability to grapple with it gains increasing advocates. "She is no longer regarded as too good and too stupid to study medicine." The candidate for medical honors also finds in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago, well-appointed schools of medicine especially adapted to her needs, with corps of trained and sympathizing instructors ready to lend a helping hand.
Looking across the Atlantic, we find countries so lately intolerant of the intellectual advancement of woman at last yielding, not always gracefully, to the inevitable. The little republic of Switzerland and the mighty empire of Russia have for many years manifested practical sympathy with the cause; and now, slowly yet surely, conservative England begins to recognize the fact that the Anglo-Saxon race, with its boasted love of liberty, has been neglectful of its duty to womankind.
To trace any more fully the history of the recent period does not fall within the province of our address; we look to the pioneers of this movement who are still with us for an exhaustive and authentic record such as participators and eye-witnesses alone can supply.
- An address delivered at the commencement exercises of the Woman's Medical College of the New York Infirmary, May 27, 1880.