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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Oregon and the West: A Comparison of First Women Medical School Graduates

Oregon was the first Western state to admit a woman to medical school. Mary Sawtelle attended Willamette University Medical Department in Salem from 1869-1871 but because of conflict with faculty and failure to pass anatomy she did not graduate. (Wait for the Lovejoy biography for more on Sawtelle!) As we’ve seen, Angela L. Ford and Ella A. J. Ford were the first women to graduate from a medical school in Oregon -- the Willamette University Medical School in 1877.
California had the first woman medical graduate from a Western state when Lucy Maria Field Wanzer completed her degree at the University of California Medical School in 1876. Elizabeth Follasnbee followed her in 1877, sharing the year with the Ford sisters.
The Medical Department of the University of Colorado was open to women in its founding year of 1883, but it was not until 1887 that Eleanor Lawney graduated from the Medical Department of the University of Denver (established in 1881) and became the first woman to graduate from a Colorado medical school.
Oregon, California and Colorado were the only Western states with medical schools from the 1870s through Esther Clayson’s years at the University of Oregon Medical Department in the 1890s.

For Sawtelle see
“Mary Priscilla Avery Sawtelle, 1835-94” in Pacific Northwest Women, 1815-1925: Lives, Memories, Writings ed. Jean M. Ward and Elaine A. Maveety (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1995), 200-08.
For California see
Emma L. Merritt, “Address Delivered by Dr. Emma L. Merritt at a Banquet Given by Women Physicians, October 11, 1924, in Honor of the Eighty-Third Birthday of Dr. Lucy Maria Field Wanzer,” California and Western Medicine 23, no. 5 (May 1925): 599-601; Esther Pohl Lovejoy, Women Doctors of the World (New York: Macmillan, 1957), 103; John Long Wilson, “Stanford University School of Medicine and the Predecessor Schools: An Historical Perspective,” Digital Edition, Lane Medical Library, Stanford School of Medicine,; Adelaide Brown, “The History of the Development of Women in Medicine in California,” California and Western Medicine 23, no. 5 (May 1925): 579-82.
For Colorado see
Mary DeMund, Women Physicians of Colorado (Denver: Range Press, 1976), 46.