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Barrows, Isabel (17 April 1845–25 October 1913), ophthalmologist, stenographer, and reformer, was born Katharine Isabel Hayes in Irasburg, Vermont, the daughter of Scottish immigrants Henry Hayes, a physician, and Anna Gibb, a schoolteacher. The family moved to Hartland and then Derry, New Hampshire, where Isabel Hayes graduated from Adams Academy. In 1863 she married William Wilberforce Chapin, a Congregational minister. The following year the couple traveled to India for a missionary assignment. Less than a year after arriving in India, William Chapin died of diphtheria. Six months later Isabel Chapin returned to the United States. She moved to Dansville, New York, where she worked as a bath assistant at a water-cure sanatorium....

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Blunt, Katharine (28 May 1876–29 July 1954), college administrator, educator, and nutritionist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Stanhope English Blunt, an army officer and technical writer, and Fanny Smyth. Little is know about her childhood except that she was first educated at a preparatory school before attending Miss Porter’s School in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1894 she enrolled at Vassar, where she studied chemistry. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with an A.B. in 1898, then returned home to her family and engaged in service to her church and community for four years....

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Bradley, Amy Morris (12 September 1823–15 January 1904), educator, Civil War nurse, and school founder, was born in East Vassalboro, Kennebec County, Maine, the daughter of Abiud Bradley, a shoemaker, and Jane Baxter. As a child Bradley suffered from bronchial problems, a vulnerability that plagued her throughout her life. When she was six, her mother died. Her seven older siblings and elderly father cared for her until she was thirteen; her father then moved away, and her married brothers and sisters took turns boarding her in their homes. From this experience she developed self-reliance and disinclination to marriage....

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Calkins, Mary Whiton (30 March 1863–26 February 1930), psychologist and philosopher, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, the daughter of Wolcott Calkins, a Protestant clergyman, and Charlotte Whiton, a social activist. The close-knit family included two daughters and three sons, and Mary remained devoted to her family and its Christian values her entire life....

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Corson, Juliet (13 January 1841?–18 June 1897), founder of the New York Cooking School and pioneer in the scientific cookery movement, was born in Mount Pleasant, Massachusetts, the daughter of Peter Ross Corson, a prosperous produce merchant, and Mary Ann Henderson. (Although most obituaries and biographical sources give Corson’s birth date as 1842, the Vital Records of Roxbury, Massachusetts, give the date as 1841.) Corson’s family moved to New York City when she was six years old. In New York her uncle, Alfred Upham, helped to raise her and provided her with a classical education. She began to support herself in her late teens after her mother’s death....

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Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” (03 September 1891–25 September 1995), and Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany (19 September 1889–25 January 1999), dentist and schoolteacher, were born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughters of Henry Beard Delany, an educator and Episcopal bishop, and Nanny James Logan Delany. Bessie was to become a dentist, and Sadie a schoolteacher; late in life, they gained fame for their published reminiscences. Descended from a mix of black, American Indian, and white lineages, the sisters grew up in a family of ten children in Raleigh on the campus of St. Augustine's, the African-American school where their father, a former slave, served as priest and vice principal. The sisters graduated from St. Augustine's (Sadie in 1910 and Bessie in 1911) at a time when few Americans, black or white, were educated beyond grammar school. “We had everything you could want except money,” recalled Bessie. “We had a good home, wonderful parents, plenty of love, faith in the Lord, educational opportunies—oh, we had a privileged childhood for colored children of the time” ( ...

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See Delany, Annie Elizabeth “Bessie”

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Goldsmith, Grace Arabell (08 April 1904–28 April 1975), nutritionist and public health educator, was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, the daughter of Arthur William Goldsmith, an accountant, and Arabell L. Coleman. An only child, she attended the University of Minnesota before transferring to the University of Wisconsin, where she received a B.S. in 1925. Active in all sports and an accomplished dancer, she was physical director at the YWCA in New Orleans, Louisiana, before entering the Tulane University Medical School, where she received her M.D. in 1932. She gave dancing lessons to pay her bills and graduated first in a class of 108 that included only six women....

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Hawes, Harriet Ann Boyd (11 October 1871–31 March 1945), archaeologist and nurse, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the daughter of Alexander Boyd, a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment, and Harriet Fay Wheeler. She lost her mother before her first birthday and was raised by her father and four older brothers. She studied Latin, Greek, and economics at Smith College from 1888 to 1892. Not yet considered old enough to study nursing, an early and lifelong avocation, she taught classics at boarding and finishing schools until her father died in 1896....

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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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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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Irwin, Elisabeth Antoinette (29 August 1880–16 October 1942), educator and psychologist, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of William Henry Irwin and Josephina Augusta Easton. Her father, a cotton merchant, provided a comfortable living, sending Irwin to Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn and to Smith College (A.B., 1903). As with many Smith students of the day, Irwin became interested in the settlement house movement and in a career in social work. During the summer after graduation, she took classes at the New York School of Philanthropy (later the New York School of Social Work). That fall she began work supervising a playground (1903–1904) and then became a resident at the College Settlement on New York’s Lower East Side. She also worked for a time as a freelance journalist....

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Johnson, Virginia E. (11 Feb. 1925–24 July 2013), sex researcher and sex therapist, was born Mary Virginia Eshelman to Hershel “Harry” Eshelman and Edna Evans Eshelman in Springfield, Missouri. Her father fought in World War I and her mother was a teacher. The couple settled in Springfield to farm after the war. In ...

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Ladd-Franklin, Christine (01 December 1847–05 March 1930), psychologist and logician, was born in Windsor, Connecticut, the daughter of Eliphalet Ladd, a farmer and merchant, and Augusta Niles. Soon after the death of her mother, when Ladd-Franklin was twelve, she went to live with her paternal grandmother in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She graduated from Welshing Academy, a coeducational institution in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, in 1865 as valedictorian of her class. When, because of financial reverses, her father could not afford to send her to Vassar College, a maternal aunt provided the necessary funds. At Vassar she studied astronomy with ...

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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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Morgan, Agnes Fay (04 May 1884–20 July 1968), nutrition scientist and home economics administrator, was born Jane Agnes Fay in Peoria, Illinois, the daughter of Irish immigrants Patrick John Fay, a laborer and builder, and his second wife, Mary Josephine Dooley. Morgan graduated as an outstanding student from Peoria High School and with financial aid from a local citizen briefly attended Vassar College and then the University of Chicago, from which she received the B.S. (1904) and M.S. (1905) in chemistry....

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Mary Adelaide Nutting. Reproduction of a painting, early twentieth century. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113019).

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Nutting, Mary Adelaide (01 November 1858–03 October 1948), nurse educator, was born in Quebec, Canada, the daughter of Vespasion Nutting, a county clerk of the circuit court, and Harriet Sophia Peasley (earlier Peaselee). Before her birth the Nutting family had moved from Massachusetts to Quebec, joining the other New England Loyalists who had relocated in Canada after the American Revolution....

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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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Robb, Isabel Hampton (26 August 1860–15 April 1910), nursing educator and leader, was born Isabel Adams Hampton in Welland Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Samuel Hampton, the owner of a tailoring business, and Sarah Mary Lay. Young Isabel (nicknamed “Addie”) preferred reading to almost anything and was a good student in the local public school. After graduation she taught in a rural public school, where she was very successful at controlling unruly students and getting them to work together. While teaching, she also studied with a Mr. Henderson, the headmaster of the Collegiate Institute at St. Catherines, Ontario. He tutored her in the liberal arts or perhaps mathematics. Isabel was ambitious; she felt “wound up” much of the time and confided to a sister, “If I were a man I would stop at nothing; I would be prime minister of Canada.”...