Women like Elizabeth Blackwell and Gerty Cori are among the numerous medical pioneers who sought to change our world. The restrictive nature of women in medicine starting as early as the mid-19th century created a notion to fight back for change. Society has come a long way with medical and health-related advancements that push us to become oblivious to the unsung heroes behind the scenes. Many women experimented with medicine, public health safety, and medical hygiene to find a place in this vast field. These individuals are responsible for stemming the medicinal advancements we use today that may have never been explored otherwise. Nevertheless, we continue to make false assumptions and stereotypes that label medicine as a male dominated field. It is time to bring a few of these women to the spotlight:
Metrodora (c. 200-400 AD)
Metrodora’s accomplishments in the realm of medicine foreshadowed the ultimate milestone of women in a heavily complex field of gynecology. As a Greek physician, Metrodora illustrated an in-depth analysis of childbirth and the female body in prehistoric reference. In her book, On the Diseases and Cures for Women, Metrodora explored groundbreaking knowledge regarding surgeries and therapies for feminine health in times where medical facilities were scarce. Her insight set up the stage for more women in medicine even thousands of years later.
Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)
Elizabeth Blackwell is one of the earliest women to pursue an MD in the 19th and 20th centuries. This British doctor was one of the first women to bring attention to medicine as a vital importance in morality and personal well-being in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Because Blackwell came from a household of passionate social advocates (including her abolitionist father), her exploration of medicine also included social reform for the underprivileged communities of the time as well. One of her biggest contributions to women in the medicine field included her published work Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women. This work was one of the first to acknowledge women’s future in medicine and encourage women to find a path in the health fields at the time.
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
We all mostly know Marie Curie’s historic Nobel Prize reception for physics in the early 20th century. However, many people are unaware of Marie Curie’s contributions to the medicine field, such as radiology advancements and the earliest development of the X-ray machine that we widely operate today. Curie embodied the future of feminine placement in medicine by also serving on the front lines as a health worker in World War II, utilizing the X-ray machine and other radiology units to save lives on the battleground. Today, hundreds of thousands of women follow in Curie’s footsteps by pursuing a career in radiology and serving as medical professionals in the military for their respective country.
Furthermore, women from all over the world and from different centuries have made revolutionary impacts for medicine. Women’s health and medical fields in general have come a long way due to the contributions of earlier medical leaders. It is imperative to recognize the progression of medicine into the 21st century, and what role women played to continuously save lives.
Haas Hall Academy