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date: 22 February 2020

Zakrzewska, Marie Elizabethlocked

(06 September 1829–12 May 1902)
  • Arleen Marcia Tuchman


Zakrzewska, Marie Elizabeth (06 September 1829–12 May 1902), physician and early advocate of women's entry into the medical profession, physician and early advocate of women’s entry into the medical profession, was born in Berlin, Germany, the daughter of Ludwig Martin Zakrzewski, a Prussian civil servant, and Caroline Fredericke Wilhelmina Urban, a midwife. The Zakrzewski family, once Polish nobility, lost their property to the Russians during the second partitioning of Poland in 1793, at which time Marie’s grandfather fled to Prussia. Her mother’s family could be traced to the Gypsy tribe of the Lombardis and numbered several medical practitioners, including her grandmother, who was a veterinary surgeon. Marie’s father lost his job as a Prussian military officer in the early 1830s, presumably because of his liberal views, although he soon landed a position in the civil service. Still, his meager salary could not support his family, and his wife went to work, training as a midwife at the Royal Charité hospital in Berlin. By the age of thirteen, Marie had left school and was occasionally assisting her mother on her rounds. By the age of twenty, after repeated attempts (she was turned down twice because of her youth), she too was studying midwifery at the Charité. She immediately became the protégé of Joseph Hermann Schmidt, professor of obstetrics and director of the hospital’s school of midwifery, who succeeded in promoting her—over the objections of many of his colleagues—to the position of head midwife in 1852, shortly after her graduation. However, intrigues against her led her to leave this position after only six months to go to the United States to study medicine....

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