THE WOMEN’S MEDICAL COLLEGE OF BALTIMORE
By Emily Emerson Lantz
Originally printed in the Evening Sun, May 13, 1918
By Emily Emerson Lantz
Originally printed in the Evening Sun, May 13, 1918
Visitors to Baltimore from the North are wont to make smiling reference to what they term the “leisurely Southern atmosphere” of this city. Chased by motor vehicle, bewildered by staggered skip-stops of trolley cars, and encouraged to “step lively” by irate conductors, Baltimoreans themselves are rather laboring under the impression that they are “going some”, not to say being rushed to death on a cyclonic whirlwind of haste.
But admitting a certain tranquility of character inherited from placid Maryland ancestors, a certain outward seeming of deliberate movement on the part of citizens, Baltimore, like the tortoise in Aesop’s fable, has always had a way of getting there, and what is more, of reaching the goal somewhat ahead of the other competitors.
Perhaps it is because Baltimore, as a community, is inclined to give courteous and sympathetic hearing to propositions, and to listen to a cause is often to espouse it.
Take for example the matter of affording medical instruction to women! Thirty-six years ago, when most medical colleges were firmly opposed to admitting women students to their clinics, Baltimore was establishing a first-class medical college for the instruction of women. If local medical schools refused to open their doors to women students, well and good; that was their privilege; but –- then establish a medical college for women.
It was in line with the old idea cherished by Southern men that what a woman wants, that she must be given, and that intellectually woman is the equal of man.
And so, the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore came into being. The Women did not have to found it; two well-known physicians, Dr. Randolph Winslow and Dr. Thomas A. Ashby, were its originators and promoters.
It seems these two medical men were one day standing upon a street corner discussing matters pertaining to their profession, when Dr. Winslow said, “Let us start a medical school for women.” His colleague expressed surprise, but not disapproval at the suggestion, and while they were talking, a third member of the profession, Dr. B.B. Browne, joined the group and became interested in the project.
A fourth physician, Dr. Eugene F. Cordell, was consulted, with the result that in 1882, the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore was established with these four broad-minded medical men as founders and instructors.
The charter was obtained February 24, 1882, additional incorporators being Drs. William D. Booker, Herbert Harlan and Robert B. Morrison. The college opened in 1882, those contributing to its first course of lectures being Drs. Winslow, Browne, Ashby, Cordell, Booker, John S. Lynch, Richard H. Thomas and John G. Jay.
It was the ambition of the founders to provide a medical college of high standard, and to this end, they imposed a preliminary examination upon all applicants for admission as students who could not show adequate evidence by certificate or diploma of satisfactory attainment. This was a distinct innovation.
Also, the school began with a session of seven months, and there was a graded course and written examinations at the close of the year. A general hospital and dispensary were founded in connection with the college, and laboratory work was early introduced as a prominent feature.
Microscopes were imported and competent instructors were appointed to teach their use. Careful attention was paid to hygiene, pharmacy and medical jurisprudence. In 1884, the college adopted a three-year course of study, and in 1885, with the University of Maryland and the College of Physicians, its trustees adopted a four-year course of study, although the American Medical College Association did not make that step mandatory until a year later. Also, shortly after, the term was lengthened to eight months.
In 1897, a thoroughly equipped bacteriological laboratory was established for the practical study of a then-new and growing science and instruction was introduced in orthopedica, psychiatry and embryology. Every endeavor was made to give thorough training in laboratories and clinics and, to honor the college, it is said that no women graduated by the Woman’s Medical College ever failed on a State medical examination.
For clinics, students had the college hospital, known as the Hospital of the Good Samaritan, the college maternité, while other local hospitals were available through the connection of members of the faculty with them. Always, the school had the advantage of find instructors, such names as Brush, Murdock, Woods, Harlan, Preston, Mitchell, Hynson, Trimble, Lord, Gilchirst, Claribel Cone, Flora Pollack, Taylor, Buckler, Hunner and others being found in old catalogues.
Dr. John R. Abercrombie was dean of the faculty when the college graduated its final class after 28 years of existence, and at that time, Dr. Guy L. Hunner, President of the college, said it had graduated 116 women, 30 of whom had married, most of them marrying physicians, and 90% were in active practice.
Other members of the faculty whose names are well-known in the Baltimore area were Drs. H. Warren Buckler; J.H. Mason Knox, Jr.; Maurice Lazenby; Henry Lee Smith; Charles W. Larned; S. Griffith Davis; John Staige Davis; Charles H. Riley; George A. Fleming; Charles M. Franklin; W. Milton Lewis; R. Tunstall Taylor; H.C. Davis; H.H. Hazen; Mary A. Waters; Mary N. Browne; Mary P. Voeglein; Bertha Berger; Henrietta M. Thomas; Mary Cook Willis, and Amanda T. Norris.
The closing of the Woman’s Medical College in 1910 was chiefly due to the fact that it was insufficiently endowed to meet the requirements of the American Medical Association, for whose existence it was partly responsible. By the joint action of six medical colleges – The University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins, the College of Physicians & Surgeons, the Baltimore Medical College, Baltimore University and the Woman’s Medical College – the American Medical Association was organized, and one of the requirements was that during their first two years students should be instructed only by paid professors. This the Woman’s Medical College could not afford, nor could it afford the expense of the increasingly elaborate laboratory apparatus essential to maintain the high and progressive standard of work in which its faculty took deserved pride.
Also, the imperative need of an exclusively feminine medical college was decreasing. Because of the endowment of Miss Mary Garrett, Johns Hopkins Medical School opened its doors to women. The Atlantic College (homeopathic, but no longer existent) also received women as students. Today  the University of Maryland Medical School admits men ad women alike to its educational opportunities.
But in the lives and work of its graduates, the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore lives on. They came to the college from Russia, from Korea, from Puerto Rico, very many of them from New York State, and all over the world they are scattered – intelligent, progressive, well-trained, well-equipped women, lending their skilled hands and efficient mentality to the world’s work.
They are the women, who by their pioneer spirit, their initiative in entering a profession for which they have proved their eminent fitness, have made the hard road of medical life easier to women coming after them. Collectively and individually, they have been an honor to their alma mater.
The first graduate of the college was Dr. Mary Rogers Owens, who went to Brooklyn, NY. Dr. Emily White is a leading surgeon in India. Dr. Annie Houston-Patterson became a medical missionary to China and died there. Dr. Esther Pak, a Korean student, returned to her native country to follow her profession. Two daughters of the West Indies, Senoritas Elisa Rivera and Anita Janer, of the island of Puerto Rico, received their medical training at the Women’s Medical College, and returned to their tropical home to become the first women physicians the island has known. They are still practicing their profession in Puerto Rico.
The personnel of the graduating class of 1910, the last to received diplomas from the college, indicates how far the fame of this modest Baltimore medical school has spread. The graduates were:
Eugenia Cohen Baku, The Caucasus, Asiatic Russia
Rose Cecelia Faughmen Newark, New Jersey
Florence C. Fuller Rolfe, Iowa
Monserrato Palmira Gatell Puerto Rico
Elizabeth A. Keay Maine
Olga Valeria Pruitt Anderson, South Carolina
Dr. Gatell, the Puerto Rican, was awarded the faculty prize of a gold medal for the highest scholarship average during her four years of study. Dr. Fuller was awarded the honor of an appointment as resident physician in the West Philadelphia Hospital for Women. Drs. Pruitt and Faughman carried off the honor of becoming interns at the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia.
Dr. Charlotte Murdock-Young, daughter of the eminent Baltimore oculist, engaged for a time in parish work in London, and now has a medical mission in China. Dr. Henrietta M. Thomas has been working in England with the Belgian refugees. Dr. Bertha Berger is in full charge of the women’s department of the Virginia State Asylum for the Insane at Staunton.
Drs. Mary P. Voeglein and Mary A. Waters hold city positions under the Board of the Police Commissioners for medical examining. Dr. Mary Cook Willis is associated with the city’s charities in official medical capacity. Dr. Anna Abercrombie is in charge of the Child Labor Bureau for the city. Dr. Sue Radcliffe is a prominent physician in Yonkers, NY and treasurer of the War Service Committee for the Medical Women’s National Association.
Dr. Fannie E. Hoopes, physician and dentist, is a graduate of both the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore, and the Pennsylvania Dental College. She was the first woman to matriculate in the dental department of Harvard University, where she took a post-graduate course. One of the most successful professional women of Baltimore, she has yet found time for club and social life and made a leisurely trip around the world just before Germany declared war. Because of the war, the ocean liner upon which she sailed was withdrawn from regular service at the conclusion of the voyage.
Dr. Flora Pollack, general practitioner, and Dr. Claribel Cone, pathologist, are both graduates of the Woman’s Medical College and later, both conducted clinics there. Also, both were, for a time, associated with Blockley Hospital in Philadelphia. Dr. Pollack, after service at Blockley, became the assistant in the genito-urinary department of the dispensary of Johns Hopkins Hospital. She also studied abroad for a short time, and has done valuable municipal work in relation to the moral protection of children. At present, in addition to professional duties, she is patriotically doing her but by lectures to young girls designed to teach them to honor their country and the high cause which American men are fighting by maintaining the highest moral ideals for their own sex.
Dr. Claribel Cone is a brilliant women who was a trustee of the Woman’s Medical College and also occupied the chair of pathology. She took a post-graduate course at Johns Hopkins, where she devoted herself to scientific investigation. She has continued laboratory work in foreign countries, and spent some years under pathologists Wiegert and Albrecht at the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfort, Germany. She has visited laboratories of Japan and being abroad when was began in Europe, has continued on the Continent. Dr. Cone is a scientist who is interested in music, painting and sculpture; a writer of distinction; a woman endowed with social graces and possessed of a peculiarly lovable personality.
Certainly, the fine work of its staff and graduates more than justifies the brilliant, if brief existence of the Woman’s Medical College of Baltimore in our midst. It was given the city when the city had need of it and the same wisdom that established and developed the school realized when the use for a medical school exclusively designed for women students had passed.