Woman of the Century/Ann Preston

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PRESTON. Miss Ann, physician, born in West Grove, Pa., in December, 1813, and died in Philadelphia, 18th April, 1872. She was the daughter of Amos and Margaret Preston. She lived in the quiet old homestead where she was born until 1849. Her father was a member and minister of the Society of Friends. Her mother became an invalid, and Ann was forced to assume the management of the family of six sons. Her only sister died at an early age. Closely confined ANN PRESTON A woman of the century (page 598 crop).jpgANN PRESTON. at home, her early education was somewhat limited. She attended school near her home and studied for some time in a West Chester boarding-school. She was an industrious reader, and her membership in a lyceum and literary association did much to develop and train her taste for literature. She studied Latin after reaching an age of maturity. While still young, she became interested in philanthropic questions, and she thought and wrote much about national unity, individual liberty, anti-slavery and kindred topics. She was in particular an ardent opponent of slavery. Before the convention held in Philadelphia, in 1833, which organized the Anti-slavery Society, she had become a member of the Clarkson Anti-slavery Society, which had been formed in the neighborhood of her home. In its meetings she listened to Giddings, Garrison and Phillips. She soon became known as a forcible writer, and her reports, addresses and petitions of the society, which are still in existence, are literary models. In 1838 she attended the meeting held in Philadelphia for the dedication of Pennsylvania Hall, a building erected for and devoted to free discussions. That building was burned by a mob, and one of her most striking poems, "The Burning of Pennsylvania Hall," was inspired by the conflagration, which she witnessed. The incident intensified her detestation of slavery and its advocates. She did much to help the fugitives from the slave States. Besides her interest in emancipation, she was also a pioneer temperance worker. In 1848 she was secretary of the temperance convention of the women of Chester county. In 1849, by order of the convention, she drew up a memorial to the legislature, asking for the enactment of a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating drinks within the limits of Chester county, and she was one of the three delegates sent to Harrisburg to present it to the lawmakers. Amid all the practical duties of housekeeping and the distractions of her reform connections she found time to write much in verse. In 1848 she published a volume of poems, entitled "Cousin Ann's Stories," some of which have been widely known. As her brothers grew up, she found herself freed from home cares, and she became a teacher. When the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania was projected, she was interested in the movement, and decided to study medicine. The college was opened in the fall of 1850, and Miss Preston was among the first applicants for admission. She had previously studied hygiene and physiology, with the view to lecturing on those subjects. She was graduated in the first commencement of the college, at the close of the session of 1851 and 1852. She remained as a student after graduation, and in the spring of 1852 she was called to the vacant chair of physiology and hygiene in the college, which she accepted after much hesitation. She lectured in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and many other towns on hygiene, and everywhere she drew large audiences. Her winters were passed in Philadelphia, lecturing in the college. At that time it was impossible for a woman to gain admission its a medical student to any hospital in Philadelphia, and the necessity for clinical instruction in connection with the regular college course was very apparent. Miss Preston and her associates obtained a charter and raised funds to establish a hospital in connection with the college, and when it was opened, she was appointed a member of its board of managers, its corresponding secretary and its consulting physician, offices which she held until the time of her death. The Civil War made so many changes that the college, in common with many other institutions, suffered. It was decided by a majority of the managers to close the college tor the session of 1861 and 1862. In 1862 Dr. Preston was prostrated by overwork. Recovering her health, she resumed her lectures in the college. The Woman's Hospital gave the college a new impetus. In 1866 Dr. Preston was elected dean of the faculty. In 1867 she wrote her famous reply to a preamble and resolutions adopted by the Philadelphia County Medical Society, to the effect that they would neither offer encouragement to women in becoming physicians nor meet them in consultation. In 1867 she was elected a member of the board of corporators of the college. Isaac Barton and others soon afterward freed the institution from financial embarrassment, and its influence w as greatly widened. At last several of the leading hospitals of Philadelphia were opened to admit women to the clinics. In 1871 she was a second time afflicted with articular rheumatism. The last work of her life was the preparation of the annual announcement for the college session of 1872 and 1873.