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Austin, Harriet N. (1825–1891), hydropathic physician and health and dress reformer, was born in Connecticut but raised in Moravia, New York. Little is known about her parentage or early life. At age twenty-six she enrolled in the first class of the coeducational American Hydropathic Institute operated by ...

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Blackwell, Elizabeth (03 February 1821–31 May 1910), physician, reformer, and medical educator, was born in Bristol, England, daughter of Samuel Blackwell, a prosperous sugar refiner, and Hannah Lane. Her father’s interest in abolitionism and in “perfectionist reform,” the belief that through education and spiritual regeneration human beings could achieve a just society on earth, coupled with a series of financial reversals, prompted a move to the United States in 1832 when Elizabeth was eleven....

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Cutler, Hannah Tracy (25 December 1815–11 February 1896), women's rights leader and physician, women’s rights leader and physician, was born Hannah Maria Conant in Becket, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, the daughter of John Conant and Orpha Johnson. As a young girl Hannah desired an education but was deterred by a lack of learning facilities for females and by a father who regarded her interest in education as “folly.” Her formal schooling was limited to the study of rhetoric, philosophy, and instruction in Latin by a family doctor. When the family moved to Rochester, Ohio, Hannah studied on her own. She wanted to attend Oberlin College and told her father that she would pay her own admission, but he denied her the chance. In 1834 she married John Martin Tracy, a theological student, with whom she had three children....

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Kate Wittenstein and Benjamin Harris

Hinkle, Beatrice Moses (10 October 1874–28 February 1953), psychoanalyst and feminist, was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of Benjamin Frederick Moses, a physician, and Elizabeth Bechley Van Geisen. She was educated at home and in 1892 married Walter Scott Hinkle, an assistant district attorney. They had two children. Her desire to study law met with her husband’s derision, and she enrolled instead at Cooper Medical College, later part of Stanford University, where she received her M.D. in 1899. That same year her husband died, and Hinkle became the city physician of San Francisco, the first woman to hold such a public health post....

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Hunt, Harriot Kezia (09 November 1805–02 January 1875), physician, humanist, and feminist reformer, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Jaab Hunt, a ship joiner and shipping industry investor, and Kezia Wentworth. Hunt attributed her “happy-cheerful-joyous” childhood home to the fact that her parents had had fourteen years together without children before her birth. The influence of her parents’ “enlivened intelligence” caused her to articulate marital ideals for women that she never chose to live herself. Both parents became Universalists and raised their children in this tradition....

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Levi-Montalcini, Rita (22 April 1909–30 December 2012), Nobel Prize–winning neuroembryologist, was born Rita Levi in Turin, Italy, the youngest of four children of Adamo Levi, an electrical engineer and mathematician, and Adele Montalcini, a painter. She later added her mother’s maiden name to her surname. Born into a Jewish middle-class family, young Rita was aware of the different roles men and women played in the family and in society. Her caring but domineering father made all the household decisions, while her submissive mother would willingly accept her husband’s decisions without challenges. However, Rita had several women as role models or sources of inspiration. Her two aunts had doctoral degrees in literature and in mathematics, respectively, and helped foster her confidence in women’s intellectual capacity. When her governess’s tragic death from cancer inspired Rita to go into medicine, her cousin Eugenia enthusiastically supported and joined her to take up medical studies. She also had the backing of her mother and her twin sister, Paola....

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Clemence Sophia Lozier. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B018108).

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Lozier, Clemence Sophia (11 December 1813–26 April 1888), physician and reformer, was born Clemence Sophia Harned in Plainfield, New Jersey, the daughter of David Harned, a farmer and Methodist, and Hannah Walker, an informal medical practitioner and Quaker. As a child Clemence acquired an interest in medicine from her physician brother and from her mother, who had learned traditional healing practices from American Indians. Her mother, realizing that her daughter had a quick mind, began teaching her healing skills. The lessons ended when her mother died and eleven-year-old Clemence was sent to school at Plainfield Academy....

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Nichols, Mary Gove (10 August 1810–30 May 1884), reformer and author, was born Mary Sargeant Neal in Goffstown, New Hampshire, the daughter of William A. Neal and Rebecca R. Neal. Although Mary’s formal education was limited, with encouragement from her freethinking father she was reading by the age of six. Her father treated her like a son, and the two often engaged in “intellectual sparring.” Despite her abilities, Mary was a shy and lonely child who never felt equal to her siblings....

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Owens-Adair, Bethenia Angelina (07 February 1840–11 September 1926), physician, feminist, and social reformer, was born in Van Buren County, Missouri, the daughter of Thomas Owens and Sarah Damron, farmers. In 1843 the family moved to Oregon’s Clatsop Plains. Fond of the outdoors, Owens preferred helping her father work with horses to doing domestic work. By age eleven, she had received only three months of schooling....

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Parker, Pat (20 Jan. 1944–17 June 1989), poet, performer, health care administrator, and lesbian-feminist activist, was born Patricia Ann Cooks in Houston, Texas, the youngest of five children of Marie Louise Anderson Cooks, a domestic worker, and Ernest Nathaniel Cooks, who worked as a roofer in the summer and retreaded tires in the winter. Later the family moved outside of Houston to a small, tin-roofed house with an outhouse. Pat recalled writing at an early age, particularly composing greeting cards for festive occasions. In high school, she joined the staff of the local black newspaper and became the first woman junior editor of her school newspaper. She also served as editor her senior year and graduated from Houston’s Evan E. Worthing Senior High School in ...

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Pruette, Lorine Livingston (3 Nov. 1896–20 Dec. 1976), psychologist, social scientist, and feminist, was born in Millersburg, Tennessee to Eulalia Miller Pruette, a former schoolteacher, and Oscar Davis Pruette, a gentleman farmer. Raised a daughter of the South, Pruette spent her first five years in a small cottage on one hundred acres where her father raised pigs, hens, cattle, and horses. This first home was isolated and rural, and her parents’ marriage was contentious. Pruette later recalled her childhood as lonely and described herself as “the odd ball” (Trigg, p. 37)....

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Remond, Sarah Parker (06 June 1826–13 December 1894), abolitionist, physician, and feminist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter of John Remond and Nancy Lenox. Her father, a native of Curaçao, immigrated to the United States at age ten and became a successful merchant. Her mother was the daughter of African-American revolutionary war veteran Cornelius Lenox. Sarah grew up in an antislavery household. Her father became a life member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1835, and her mother was founding member of the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, which began as a black female organization in 1832. Sarah’s brother, ...

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Ripley, Martha George (30 November 1843–18 April 1912), physician and feminist, was born Martha George Rogers in Lowell, Vermont, the daughter of Francis Rogers, a local politician, and Esther Ann George, an ardent abolitionist. Of Irish stock, Francis traced his roots to the ...

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Welsh, Lilian (06 March 1858–23 February 1938), physician, educator, and suffragist, was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Major Thomas Welsh and Annie Eunice Young. Her father served in the Mexican War in 1847, returned to civilian life, and then rejoined the military when the Civil War broke out. He had just risen to the rank of brigadier general, commanding a division of 4,500 men, when he took ill and died in 1863. Welsh graduated from Columbia High School at the age of fifteen as one of two young women making up the first graduating class. Between the years 1873 and 1881 she taught at the primary, elementary, and secondary levels and attended Millersville State Normal School in Pennsylvania and taught there. From 1881 to 1886 she served as the principal of Columbia High School. In 1885, finding no opportunities for women to advance their careers as superintendents of schools, she considered the two choices open to her for continuing her education: work for the A.B. at Bryn Mawr College, which had just opened that year, or proceed to the study of medicine for which at the time no college requirement was necessary. Interest in chemistry steered her on the latter course. She earned the M.D. from the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1889 and pursued her studies further by working toward a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Zurich in the hopes of becoming a research scientist. While in Zurich, she met Dr. ...

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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....