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New England Female Medical College

Annual announcement of the New-England Female Medical College (detail of title page), 1860, Francis A. Countway Library, Harvard Medical School
Annual announcement of the New-England Female Medical College (detail of title page), 1860, Francis A. Countway Library, Harvard Medical School.

Established in Boston, Massachusetts, by Dr. Samuel Gregory with the purpose of offering modern medical training in female-related fields, the New England Female Medical College was the first in the world to provide medical training for women. At the time, male physicians who practiced obstetrics were often scornfully referred to as "midwives" by their male colleagues, yet many questioned the legitimacy of women's professional place in medicine and were not supportive of a medical program to train female physicians. Dr. Gregory, while leery of the appropriateness of male physician practice of female medicine, also sought to dissuade women in unschooled medical practices such as midwifery and other methods generally considered by medical professionals as old-fashioned, informal, and dangerous.

Gregory had difficulty attracting and retaining faculty, trustees, and other personnel, but the school did attract many notable female students and staff, among them Dr. Marie Zakrewska, who taught at the college and was also a founder of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, the first hospital to offer obstetrics, gynecology, and pediatrics within a single facility. From 1848 to 1874, the school trained over 280 students and granted 98 medical degrees. Many of its graduates became affiliated with other area hospitals.

The school faced financial hardships after Gregory's death in 1872 and after many of its benefactors sustained substantial losses during a devastating fire in downtown Boston in the same year. In 1874, the school's trustees approved the school's merger with Boston University School of Medicine.

Archives

  • Free Hospital for Women. Scrapbook. Free Hospital for Women Records. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Call no: MC 915.
  • New England Female Medical College. [Scrapbook], 1847-1865. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Call no: Rare Books f 1.Ns.14.Ne.

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