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Monday, April 22, 2013

Guest Post by Cody Rogers

The Hidden Costs of Paying For School:
A Look at The Struggles of Esther Lovejoy's Path to Becoming a Physician

            Esther Pohl Lovejoy faced many financial barriers to becoming a female physician. Financial hurdles were sometimes linked together with gendered barriers to form what could have been an impossible obstacle. However, Esther was not stopped by these barriers because she had a determination to escape her working class family background and gain an independent life, free from being dependent on a husband or anyone else. The lengths she would go to becoming a physician can be inspiring for us today and show the challenges faced by women who wanted to work in medicine at the turn of the 20th century. [Kimberly Jensen, "Becoming a Woman Physician," Oregon's Doctor to the World: Esther Pohl Lovejoy and a Life in Activism. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012. 33-55.]
            One of Esther Lovejoy's biggest hurdles was the financial burden of paying for school. Esther came from a large working class family and at the time that she applied for medical school, she and two of her brothers were helping their mother with expenses by working as clerks in department stores.  [Jensen, 36.] Kimberly Jensen points out that her own family felt she had taken on too large a job and while she was able to pay for the first year of tuition amounting to 120 dollars, she had to drop out to raise more money after just one year in school. [Jensen, 36] This meant that even if she were able to raise more money to continue her school, she would be with different students and be forced to start up new relationships. Esther said herself about having to leave school that, “....There were no scholarships to be won...” [Jensen, 36-37.] There being no scholarships is an important point for us to remember in today's world where students are able to get scholarships or at least take out loans.
            This financial barrier was heightened by the role of gender in the department store where she worked to raise money. In the first store she worked at, Lipman and Wolfe, Esther talks about her direct boss, a floorwalker. This man was antagonistic toward women becoming doctors and quickly came to represent all the negative attitudes concerning professional women. While her main barrier at this time was financial in nature it had become gendered as well. Eventually the supervisor confronted her about studying human bones on company time and in front of the high-class customers. He gave her an ultimatum that she would either have to give up her dreams of being a doctor or lose her job. This very easily could have been the end for Lovejoy's dream of becoming a doctor, but Esther was lucky because she had a fellow co-worker who was able to secure her a job at Olds and King, another department store. [Jensen, 39.]
            This story gives us one great example among many of how the financial cost of school, especially an expensive type like medical school, can lead to barriers of a different nature. The cost of dealing with persons in power who are hostile to women or minorities, and even the jobs themselves, take a heavy toil on people who must work to go to school. Esther Lovejoy faced many more barriers, including gendered ones such as being denied an internship because she was a woman. [Jensen, 49.] However, I have chosen to focus on the financial burdens Lovejoy faced, because I feel institution can learn from them today. While a school might be completely gender unbiased in who it admits and the way it teaches, the world is not. Therefore, it is important for universities to understand the full cost and burden that high tuition fees can cause outside of the “safety” of the university.