Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania

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The Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (founded in 1850), later renamed as The Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP) after opening its doors to men in 1970, was the first medical institution in the world established to train women in medicine and offer them the M.D. degree.[1] Originally called The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, the college changed its name to Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1867. The associated Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1861.

The college built a new campus in East Falls in the 1920s, which combined teaching and the clinical care of a hospital in one overall facility. It was the first purpose-built hospital in the nation. In 1993, the college and hospital merged with Hahnemann Medical School. In 2003, the two colleges were absorbed by the Drexel University College of Medicine.

Founding[edit]

Smedley's History of the Underground Railroad cites Bartholomew Fussell as proposing the idea for a women's college for medicine in 1846. It was a tribute to his departed sister, who felt could have been a doctor if women had the opportunity back then. Her daughter, Graceallen Lewis, was to become one of the first female scientists in the USA. At his house in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, he invited six doctors, along with his niece Graceanna Lewis, to carry out his idea. He had little to do with the school after it started in 1850 in Philadelphia.

One doctor, Ellwood Harvey (who attended the 1846 meeting, but did not actually join until 1852), helped keep the school alive by not only teaching a full schedule, but taking on a second schedule when another professor backed out. While at the college he also took clients for his practice including abolitionist and UGRR historian, William Still, and his family. It was most likely Still who told him about a slave hiding in Washington DC named Ann Maria Weems. Harvey took her, dressed as male buggy driver, from in front of the White House to Philadelphia and eventually New York City. She eventually made it to Canada. With the $300 reward from Lewis Tappan for rescuing Weems, he bought a papier maché dissection manniquin for the school. Ann Preston was one of the first students to graduate from the college.

Harvey was sued for libel after a physician named Longshore quit and started a rival medical college for women at the University of Pennsylvania. Longshore had been using his previous connections at the Female Medical College to raise money for his own college. Though Harvey was found guilty of libel, the judge understood his actions, saying "You're guilty, but you're right" and fining him one cent. Poverty eventually forced Harvey to leave the school in 1858, although he still worked in various capacities with the college.

Clara Marshall (1847-1931), graduate of MCP and dean from 1888-1917, considered the founder of the school to have been Fussel.[2] Other students considered Joseph S. Longshore and William J. Mullen to be the primary founders.[2] Most considered these three men, whether official founder or not, to be instrumental in the creation of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania.[2]

The Feminist Movement during the early to mid 19th century contributed to support for the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. The Society of Friends in Philadelphia, a large group of Quakers, were supportive of the women’s rights movements and the development of the Female MCP.[3]

MCP was initially located in the rear of 229 Arch Street, Philadelphia (the address was later changed to 627 Arch Street when Philadelphia renumbered streets in 1858).[4] In July 1861, the board of corporators of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania chose to rent rooms for the College from the Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia on North College Avenue.[5]

Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia[edit]

In part to provide clinical experience for WMC students, a group of Quaker women, particularly Ann Preston, founded the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia in 1861.[6]

Issues in clinical training[edit]

The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania faced difficulties in providing clinical training for its students.[7] Almost all medical institutions were confronted with the demand for more clinical practice due to the rise of surgery, physical diagnosis, and clinical specialties.[8] During the 1880s, clinical instruction at the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania relied mainly on the demonstration clinics.[7]

In 1887, Anna Broomall, professor of obstetrics for the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, established a maternity outpatient service in a poor area of South Philadelphia for the purpose of student education.[7] By 1895, many students cared for three or four women who were giving birth.[9]

East Falls campus and Drexel University[edit]

In the late 1920s, the college raised money to build a new campus, designed by Ritter & Shay, the most successful of the Philadelphia urban architecture firms in the 1920s. The East Falls Campus was the first purpose-built hospital in the nation. The design allowed both teaching and hospital care to take place in one facility, helping provide for more clinical care. Post-WWII housing shortages in the city were a catalyst for development of additions to the East Falls Campus, the first of which was the Ann Preston Building (designed by Thaddeus Longstreth), which provided housing and classrooms for student nurses.

Falls Center
Front of the Falls Center

Today, the building is known as the Falls Center. It is operated by Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners as student housing, commercial space, and medical offices.[10]

In 1993 the Medical College of Pennsylvania merged with Hahnemann Medical College, retaining its Queen Lane campus. In 2003, the two medical colleges were absorbed as a part of Drexel University College of Medicine, creating new opportunities for the large student body for clinical practice in settings ranging from urban hospitals to small rural practices.

Notable alumnae[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Peitzman, Steven J. (2000). A new and untried course : Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850 - 1998. New Brunswick, N.J [u.a.]: Rutgers University Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-8135-2815-1. 
  2. ^ a b c Peitzman, Steven J. (2000). A new and untried course : Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850 - 1998. New Brunswick, N.J [u.a.]: Rutgers University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-8135-2815-1. 
  3. ^ Peitzman, Steven J. (2000). A new and untried course : Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850 - 1998. New Brunswick, N.J [u.a.]: Rutgers University Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-8135-2815-1. 
  4. ^ Peitzman, Steven J. (2000). A new and untried course : Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850 - 1998. New Brunswick, N.J [u.a.]: Rutgers University Press. p. 13. ISBN 0-8135-2815-1. 
  5. ^ Peitzman, Steven J. (2000). A new and untried course : Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850 - 1998. New Brunswick, N.J [u.a.]: Rutgers University Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-8135-2815-1. 
  6. ^ Peitzman, Steven J. (2000). A new and untried course : Woman's Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850 - 1998. New Brunswick, N.J [u.a.]: Rutgers University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-8135-2815-1. 
  7. ^ a b c Peitzman (2000), A New and Untried Course, p. 78
  8. ^ Edward Atwater, "'Making Fewer Mistakes': A History of Students and Patients," pp. 165-187, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 57, 1983
  9. ^ Peitzman (2000), A New and Untried Course, p. 79
  10. ^ Mastrull, Diane. "Falls Center is still evolving/ The historic location of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania is now becoming a medical and educational complex. The center continues to attract new tenants.". Philly.com. Retrieved 13 January 2012. 

Further research[edit]

Coordinates: 40°00′43″N 75°11′03″W / 40.01190°N 75.18420°W / 40.01190; -75.18420