Rare Vintage Photos Capture Student Life at the World’s First Medical College for Women From the Late 19th Century

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The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, founded in 1850 as the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, was the first medical school in the world for women authorized to award them the M.D. It was established in Philadelphia by a group of progressive Quakers and a businessman who believed that women had a right to education and would make excellent physicians. Renamed the Woman’s Medical College in 1867, the school trained thousands of women physicians from all over the world, many of whom went on to practice medicine internationally.

The college provided rare opportunities for women to teach, perform research, manage a medical school, and, with the establishment of Woman’s Hospital in 1861, learn and practice in a hospital setting. It was the longest-lasting all-women medical school in the nation, until it became coeducational in 1970, admitting four men into what became the Medical College of Pennsylvania.

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) was founded during an era of reform, just two years after the first woman’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, asserted women’s rights to an education and a profession, among other rights. The college’s founders, early supporters, faculty, and earliest students reflected this reform mindset. The founders and early faculty included Quaker and non-Quaker activists for prison reform, abolition, and temperance.

Here, below is a collection of rare and amazing vintage photographs that capture student life at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania from between the 19th and early 20th centuries:

Three students in a boarding house room, from the book Daughters of Aesculapians, c.1890.

International students Anandabai Joshee, Kei Okami, and Tabat Islambooly, photographed at the Dean’s Reception on October 10, 1885.

Operating room, North College Avenue, early 1890s.

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania class of 1891.

Medical students training in 1892.

Four members of the class of 1893.

Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1895.

Students with skeletons, c.1895.

Alice R. Evans and Dr. Hill, an eye, ear and throat doctor, examining a skull, 1896.

Four graduates, along with a skull and some bones, from the scrapbook of Laura Heath Hills, class of 1896.

A brain anatomy demonstration, 1897.

Alice Evan’s scrapbook with dissection images, c.1898.

Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania operating amphitheater, 1915.

Ella B. Everitt lecturing, 1915.

(Photos © Drexel Med Archives)

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