Boston Female Medical College

In 1848, only a year after Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to enroll in medical school, Samuel Gregory opened the first medical college specifically to train women in medicine.  Despite the lack of formal medical training, several brave women forged their way as family practitioners in a medical world dominated by men.  However, there was one area of medicine that caused great uneasiness in the male dominated field: childbirth.  It was until the 1800s that doctors began to attend to childbirth, but it was still widely considered improper for a man to be present for childbirth.  Most childbirths were attended to by midwives, who had be trained purely by the experience.  Dr. Samuel Gregory also believed that it was improper for a male physician to be present at a birth and that female doctors would be better suited to taking care of childbirth.  So Dr. Gregory and Dr. Israel Tilsdale Talbot opened the Boston Female Medical College.  It was the first medical college devoted to teaching women in the entire world.

The first term for the school started on November 1, 1848.  Despite the backlash against the school, which argued that women did not have the stamina to be doctors, Dr. Gregory continued his mission.  Twelve women enrolled in the first class, and received classes for three years.  Although most of the instruction was far from what is now experienced in medical schools, Boston Female Medical College became an instrumental in providing medical knowledge to women.  During its time, several distinguished alumni graduated from the school.  One of the most notable is Dr. Rebecca Lee, who was the first African-American female physician.  The college also had Dr. Maria Zakrzewska on its faculty.  She was one of the few people at that time who encouraged women to study medicine for their interest in it, not just for their compassion towards other women and children.  Sadly, after the death of Dr. Gregory in 1872, the college was left in great financial trouble leading to a merger with the Boston University School of Medicine.  Although the college lost its identity as a female medical college, the new school still continued Dr. Gregory’s commitment to educating women.  Despite its relatively short autonomous existence, the Boston Female Medical College opened the door for females to become well educated in medicine.



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