Ann Preston

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Ann Preston
Ann Preston 1867.jpg
Ann Preston, c. 1867
Born (1813-12-01)December 1, 1813
West Grove, Pennsylvania, United States
Died April 18, 1872(1872-04-18) (aged 58)
Occupation Doctor, educator

Ann Preston (December 1, 1813 – April 18, 1872) was an American doctor and educator.


Born in West Grove, Pennsylvania, as one of eight siblings, she was raised as a Quaker by a Quaker minister Amos and his wife Margaret (née Smith) Preston. Three of the children were girls, but Ann was the only one to survive until adulthood. She was educated in a local school then attended a boarding school in Chester, Pennsylvania. However, she had to return home to care for her mother, who was terminally ill.[1]

She became a member of the temperance movement and the Clarkson Anti-Slavery Society. After her younger brothers were old enough to care for themselves, she worked as a schoolteacher. In 1849, she published a book of nursery rhymes, Cousin Ann's Stories. By the 1840s, she became interested in educating women about their bodies and taught all-female classes on hygiene and physiology.[1] She was privately educated in medicine by Nathaniel Moseley from 1847–1849. Unable to gain admittance to male medical school because of biases against women, she entered the Quaker-run Female Medical College of Pennsylvania when it first opened, where she was one of eight women awarded an MD in the first graduating class of 1852.[2][3]

Dr. Preston returned to the college the following year for postgraduate work, then ran a series of lectures on hygiene for women. Beginning in 1853 she was a professor of physiology and hygiene at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. During the American Civil War, the college was closed due to lack of financial support. Preston began to suffer from rheumatic fever and exhaustion at this time. She was confined to Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane for three months to recuperate.[3]

After the college was re-opened, student Mary Putnam Jacobi was refused a medical degree by Edwin Fussel, even though she met the required qualifications. This resulted in a rift among the staff because most of them, including Dr. Preston, disagreed with the decision. Fussell resigned following the incident[4] and Preston became dean of the college from 1866–1872.

She was the first woman to become the dean of a medical school, a position that allowed her to champion the right of women to become physicians.[3][5] In 1867 the Philadelphia County Medical Society objected to the practice of medicine by women, and Preston's defense disarmed much of the adverse criticism.[6]

In 1871 she suffered from an attack of acute articular rheumatism, which left her in a weakened state. She suffered a relapse the following year and died on April 18, 1872.[7]


  • Cousin Ann's Stories for Children (1849; re-issued 2011)

She also published various essays on the medical education of women.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Dr. Ann Preston". Changing the Face of Medicine. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 2011-02-18. 
  2. ^ "Register of the Alumnae Association of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, now the Medical College of Pennsylvania". 
  3. ^ a b c Ogilvie, Marilyn Bailey; Harvey, Joy Dorothy (2000). The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: L-Z. Taylor & Francis. p. 1051. ISBN 0-415-92040-X. 
  4. ^ Windsor, Laura Lynn (2002). Women in Medicine: An encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 164. ISBN 1-57607-392-0. 
  5. ^ De Rosa, Deborah C. (2005). Into the mouths of babes: an anthology of children's abolitionist literature. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 161. ISBN 0-275-97951-2. 
  6. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1892). "Preston, Ann". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  7. ^ Kelly, Howard Atwood (1912). A cyclopedia of American medical biography: comprising the lives of eminent deceased physicians and surgeons from 1610 to 1910. W.B. Saunders company. pp. 291–292. 

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