Harriot Kezia Hunt

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Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, carved by Edmonia Lewis c. 1871-1872 for Harriot Hunt's grave

Harriot Kezia Hunt (November 9, 1805 – January 2, 1875) was an early female physician and women's rights activist.

Harriot Hunt
Born November 9, 1805
Boston, MA
Died January 2, 1875
Boston, MA
Resting place Mount Auburn Cemetery
Education Honorary MD: Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania
Occupation Teacher, M.D., Women's Rights Acitivist
Parent(s) Kezia Wenthworth Hunt, Joab Hunt

Early life[edit]

Hunt was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1805, the daughter of Joab Hunt and Kezia Wentworth Hunt. She and her sister, Sarah Hunt, opened a private school in their home after the death of their father in 1827 in order to be self-sufficient.[1] Though teaching brought in money, Harriot felt it was not what she wanted to do with her life. Harriot's sister soon fell ill and was unable to recover with the treatment of conventional doctors and Dr. Richard Dixon Mott came into the picture to treat Sarah. It was after this that Harriot began studying medicine under Elizabeth Mott and Dr. Mott in 1833.[1] Rather than using the common methods of the time, Mr. and Mrs. Mott used rest and relaxation as well as herbal remedies to help strengthen and cure patients. Harriot benefited greatly through clinical observation while working with Elizabeth Mott, who generally oversaw most of Dr. Mott's female patients.[2] In 1835 Harriot opened her own consulting room, without a medical diploma.[1]


As the first woman to apply to Harvard Medical School in 1847, Harriot was denied entrance. Shortly after Elizabeth Blackwell's graduation from Geneva College in 1849, Harriot applied again to Harvard, but was once again denied. [1] In the years following Hunt's application and denial other women continued to be denied as well. It wasn't until 1945 that Harvard Medical School admitted its first class of women in a 10 year trial to measure productivity and accomplishment of women both during and after medical schooling. This class of women was admitted due to the decreased amount of qualified male applicants as a result of World War ll.[3] Despite not being accepted to Harvard after her second application, Harriot continued to practice medicine on her own. She became so widely known that in 1853 she received an Honorary MD from the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. [1]


Though Harriot worked practicing medicine for large amount of her career, she also worked passionately advocating for the right of women to both learn and practice medicine. In 1850 Hunt attended the national convention for women's rights in Worcester, Massachusetts. For a number of years Hunt spent her time lecturing on the abolition of slavery as well as women's rights. [2] Much of her career is described in her memoirs, Glances and Glimpses; or,Fifty Years' Social, Including Twenty Years' Professional Life (Boston: J.P. Jewett and Company, 1856).

Death & Burial[edit]

After her death in 1875, at the age of 70, she was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, near Boston. Her grave can still be visited today and is marked by a statue of the Greek goddess of health, Hygeia. This was carved by the African American sculptor, Edmonia Lewis. Hunt is also commemorated on the Salem Women's Heritage Trail.


  1. ^ a b c d e Kelly, Howard (1912). A Cyclopedia of American Medical Biography (2 ed.). Philadelphia and London: W.B. Saunders Company. p. 22. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  2. ^ a b Harriot Kezia Hunt. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/biography/Harriot-Kezia-Hunt
  3. ^ Sedgwick, Jessica (2012). "The Archives for Women in Medicine: Documenting Women's Experiences and Contributions at Harvard Medical School". Centuarus 54: 305–306. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 

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