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Apgar, Virginia (07 June 1909–07 August 1974), physician, anesthesiologist, and teratologist, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the daughter of Charles Emory Apgar, an insurance executive, and Helen May Clarke. She had two brothers, one of whom died of tuberculosis at age three. Apgar’s father conducted amateur experiments in electricity and astronomy, which stimulated her interest in science and medicine. After schooling in Westfield, Apgar attended Mount Holyoke College, obtaining her A.B. degree in 1929. She completed her M.D. at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York City, in 1933. Then followed two brilliant years in surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, but the department chairman, Alan Whipple, discouraged her from surgical practice. He cited the depression and financial insecurities experienced by his previous female trainees and urged her instead to consider anesthesia, not yet a medical specialty but often done by women nurse practitioners. Apgar spent six months in anesthesia training at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and six months at Bellevue Hospital in New York City before returning to Columbia-Presbyterian in 1938 as director of the Division of Anesthesiology; she was the first woman to head a medical division in that institution....

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Dimock, Susan (24 April 1847–07 May 1875), physician and surgeon, was born in Washington, North Carolina, the daughter of Henry Dimock and Mary Malvina Owens. Her father, the son of a physician, was the editor of a small newspaper, while her mother, a strong influence in Dimock’s life, taught her at home and in a private school that she had organized. At age thirteen Dimock entered the Washington Academy, where she studied Latin and became interested in medicine. A family physician loaned her books and took her on house calls. The Civil War interrupted her studies when Washington became occupied by Union troops, forcing townspeople to evacuate. Her father died during the occupation, and with her mother, she traveled north to live with relatives in Sterling, Massachusetts. There she befriended Elizabeth Greene, the daughter of Colonel W. B. Greene, a wealthy Boston reformer. While teaching in a local school, Dimock became acquainted through Greene with Dr. ...

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Frantz, Virginia Kneeland (13 November 1896–23 August 1967), surgeon and medical pathologist, was born in New York City, the daughter of Yale Kneeland, a wheat merchant, and Anna Ilsley Ball. She attended Brearley School in New York City and entered Bryn Mawr College in 1914, intending to prepare for a career in medicine. Toward that end she was encouraged by college president ...

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Hurd-Mead, Kate Campbell (06 April 1867–01 January 1941), gynecologist and women's historian, gynecologist and women’s historian, was born Kate Campbell Hurd in Danville, Quebec, Canada, the daughter of Edward Payson Hurd, a physician, and Sara Elizabeth Campbell. Hurd’s family moved to Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1870; there her father, who served as an inspiration to her own medical career, established a medical practice, held a professorship in a Boston medical school, and served on the editorial board of two leading medical magazines. Hurd pursued two years of private tutorials after her 1883 high school graduation in Newburyport before enrolling in the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She received an M.D. in 1888, some thirty-seven years after the college awarded its first medical degree to a woman. She interned the following year at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. This hospital, founded in 1862, had, by Hurd’s time, gained a national reputation for being what medical historian Regina Markell Morantz-Sanchez has dubbed the “showplace for quality medical care” administered by women. Under the leadership of ...

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Hurdon, Elizabeth (28 January 1868–29 January 1941), gynecologist and pathologist, was born in Bodmin, England, the daughter of John Hurdon, a linen and woolen draper, and Ann Coom. Soon after her birth, the Hurdons and their two daughters moved to Canada. Not much is known about Elizabeth’s early years, but by age thirteen she was attending the Wesleyan Ladies College in Hamilton, Ontario, where in 1886 she received a degree in literature. In 1895 she received a medical degree from the Trinity College of the University of Toronto....

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Levine, Lena (17 May 1903–09 January 1965), gynecologist, psychiatrist, and pioneer of the birth control movement, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Morris H. Levine, a clothing manufacturer, and Sophie Levine. Her parents, Jewish émigrés from Russia, had come to the United States in the 1890s. Her father’s business did well enough that the family lived relatively comfortably compared to their neighbors. Levine received a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in 1923, and then went on to earn her M.D. from University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College in 1927. Two years later she married Louis Ferber, another medical student, but decided to retain her maiden name. They both did their residencies at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital....

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Mergler, Marie Josepha (18 May 1851–17 May 1901), physician and surgeon, was born in Mainstockheim, Bavaria, the daughter of Francis R. Mergler, a physician, and Henrietta von Ritterhausen. Her father moved the family to Palatine, Illinois, when Marie was two years old. Mergler received most of her early education from her father. She also assisted him with his medical work. But his example and practical training did not immediately propel her into a medical career. Perhaps because the obstacles against women entering medicine were considerable, she prepared instead for a teaching career. She attended the Cook County Normal School in Illinois and the State Normal School at Oswego, New York. After graduating in 1872, she taught and served as assistant principal at a high school in the Chicago suburb of Englewood....

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Putnam, Helen Cordelia (14 September 1857–03 February 1951), physician and public health reformer, was born in Stockton, Minnesota, the daughter of Herbert Asa Putnam, a general store owner, and Celintha T. Gates. She received her A.B. from Vassar College in 1878 and then enrolled in Harvard University’s Sargent School of Physical Training. In 1883, having completed that school’s course of study, she returned to Vassar as director of physical education. Shortly thereafter she became active in the affairs of the American Association for the Advancement of Physical Education and served as its vice president from 1885 to 1888. She also enrolled in the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she specialized in obstetrics and the diseases of women and received her M.D. in 1889. In 1890 she left Vassar to become an intern at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. Two years later she moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where she practiced gynecology for the next forty-three years....

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Thompson, Mary Harris (15 April 1829–21 May 1895), physician, was born near Fort Ann, New York, the daughter of John Harris Thompson, co-owner of an iron mine, and Calista Corbin. She attended a Methodist school, Troy Conference Academy, in West Poultney, Vermont, and then completed preprofessional education at Fort Edward Collegiate Institute at Fort Edward, New York. Owing to her father’s business difficulties, from age fifteen she had to support herself as a student by teaching at the schools she attended and at public schools. She studied astronomy, chemistry, physiology, and anatomy independently, and she successfully added the latter two subjects to the curricula at the schools where she taught....

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Constance M. McGovern

Van Hoosen, Bertha (26 March 1863–07 June 1952), surgeon, was born in Stony Creek, Michigan, the daughter of Joshua Van Hoosen, a farmer, and Sarah Ann Taylor, a teacher. She attended public schools in Pontiac, Michigan, and, upon graduation, enrolled at the University of Michigan. Van Hoosen completed the work for a bachelor of arts degree in Michigan’s literary course of study in 1884 and immediately enrolled in the medical department. Few, including her parents, supported her choice to study medicine, and to earn tuition for her medical training she took on work as an obstetrical nurse, an anatomy demonstrator, and a schoolteacher. Unhappy with the paucity of clinical experience offered by the University of Michigan, she created her own opportunities by serving as a staff doctor at the Woman’s Hospital of Detroit, the Kalamazoo State Hospital for the Insane, and the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston....