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Student Life at the World’s First Medical School for Women

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) opened in Philadellphia in 1850, but it wasn't until 1869 that its students were allowed to attend a clinical lecture at Pennsylvania Hospital. That occasion was treated as a sideshow by the male medical students of the University of Pennsylvania.

“When we turned up at the clinic, in what was then the new amphitheater, pandemonium broke loose,” Broomall said in a later interview. “The students rushed in pell-mell, stood up in the seats, hooted, called us names and threw spitballs, trying in vain to dislodge us.” Joanne Murray, Historian and Director at the Drexel University Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections, describes another account: “The men greeted the women students with yells, hisses, caterwauling, mock applause, offensive remarks on personal appearance, etc.”

It took some time for women to be accepted as medical students and doctors. But life inside WMCP was like other medical schools, with students dissecting cadavers and discussing medical procedures. They wore floor-length Victorian dresses and couldn't vote, but they were ambitious and intelligent. WMCP produced many groundbreaking physicians who went on to serve all over the world. Read about the early days of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania at Atlas Obscura.


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