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From the Collections: Potts, Kettle, Quack?

Portrait of Anna M. Longshore Potts, MD. (The Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections)

Prompted by a reference request, I've been looking around to see what other institutions (and, of course, Google Books) might have regarding Dr. Anna Longshore-Potts – a member of the first graduating class (1852) of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania which would later become the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (and yes, it's 'Woman's' and not 'Women's'). While we had a few items (most of them of a slightly hagiographical bent), I hoped to find a bit more elsewhere to broaden the possible directions of the request.

At first, the online results were quite similar to our own analog holdings – short biographies mentioning her popular lecture tours, her books and her wide travels. Indeed, she seemed to be something along the lines of a medical Oprah – she was even quoted in a A Text-book of the Science and Art of Bread-making, presumably to help boost its sales.

However, once I got into the scholarly journals of the day a very different picture emerged from the male medical establishment – the vast majority of those opinion-makers wanted nothing to do with 'Mrs. Dr. Longshore Potts.' The Journal of the American Medical Association (in 1895) published a note from London whose author did not exactly hold back his (and I think we can very safely say 'his') opinion of Dr. Longshore-Potts and her education:

Excerpt from the Journal of the American Medical Association. (The Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections)

Journal of the American Medical Association

While it is true that medical education had become much more professionalized from the point at which Dr. Longshore-Potts submitted her thesis ('A Disquisition on Electricity' - one from our collection), by the 1890s the curriculum at WMC was not dissimilar to other highly-regarded medical schools of the time - and was probably quite a bit more stringent than not a few big names. Obviously, that impression was not held by the medical men who edited the Medical Press and Circular in 1899:

Excerpt from the Medical Press Circular, 1899. Text reads: Retribution MRS LONGSHORE POTTS this distant Yankee MD who has been touring this country as a lecturer on indecent subjects to women who call themselves ladies and who has practised extensively on the vile bodies of such persons has we are gratified to note been mulcted in 175 and full costs at a trial last week in Manchester for damage inflicted by her on a foolish young unmarried woman...Mayor their names Her ruse is an extremely clever one Before she opens her campaign in a certain district her agent makes a tour with her sham diploma ve have ascertained that it is not recognisable by any official authority even in America and other documents He calls on Bishops and other leading people most of whom never heard of this woman in their lives but he does not ask them to testify anything but the fact that they have seen the said documents which statement Mrs Longshore Potts circulates in such form as to lead the public to believe that these important individuals know her and guarantee her honesty and respectability It is astounding that responsible public officials should allow themselves and their public status to be dragged through the mire at the tail of a female whose lack of medical qualification is the least of her disabilities...

Medical Press and Circular

It is, perhaps, a bit unfair to point out that the same edition of JAMA featured an article on 'The Incandescent Light, or Radiant Heat Bath' by no less an authority than Dr. J. H. Kellogg of breakfast cereal fame (complete with photos of the light baths in question) which sang the praises of sitting in a light-bulb-lined box to promote 'protoplasmic activity' - or that the Medical Press argued forcefully regarding the dangers of reading in bed - but somehow, it seems worth mentioning.