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Women and Homeopathy

As in any profession in the 19th and early 20th centuries, women in medicine struggled for the right to formal education and recognition as professionals. In 1850, the first medical school that granted to degrees to women opened in Philadelphia under the name ‘Female Medical College of Pennsylvania.’ It was followed shortly thereafter by the New England Female Medical College in Boston, founded in 1856; New York Medical College and Hospital for Women in 1863; Chicago Women’s Hospital and College in 1870; and several others.

During the same time period, the first homeopathic medical school in the United States, the Allentown Academy, was opened in 1835 by Constantine Hering. By 1844, American homeopaths from New York, Philadelphia, and Boston had founded the American Institute of Homeopathy. Soon to follow were the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania (1848); Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago (1855); New York Homeopathic Medical College (1859); Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia (1867), which merged with the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1871; and the Detroit Homeopathic College (1872).

However, opportunities for women to train in homeopathic medicine were few and far between. The New York Medical College and Hospital for Women (1863) and the Woman’s Homeopathic College in Cleveland (1868) were two options for women wishing to study homeopathy. In 1871, Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago allowed women to matriculate. In 1874, the homeopathic Boston University School of Medicine became the first co-educational medical school in New England. However, in Philadelphia, women were not allowed admittance to either the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania or Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia. In 1865, women were allowed to sit in on the lectures at the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, but were not allowed to matriculate and earn degrees. The question of permitting women to attend the Philadelphia schools was debated several times in the late 1800s, although it would not be until 1941 that women were admitted.

It was common practice for women in the early days of homeopathy to receive medical degrees from schools such as the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) or New England Female Medical College (Boston), and then move to Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, or Boston, where they could receive formal training in homeopathic medicine.

Resources in our collections

(with some links to external online sources)

Bradford Collection of Biographies of Homeopathic Physicians [PDF]

  • Contains photographs, newspaper clippings, and/or biographies of approximately 150 women homeopaths up to 1918. Arranged alphabetically by last name.

History of Homeopathy and its Institutions in America. King, William Harvey, ed. New York: Lewis Publishing, 1905.

  • Vol. I: The History of Homeopathy: A history of homeopathy, focused on the rise of homeopathy in the United States.
  • Vol. II and Vol. III: Homeopathic Institutions and Societies: Includes essays about the Women’s Southern Homeopathic Hospital and other homeopathic institutions.
  • Vol. IV: Homeopathic Physicians: Short biographies of notable homeopathic physicians, including Elizabeth Baer, Mary Branson, and Amelia Landis Hess.

Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann Medical College Faculty, Board of Manager, and other committee minutes: 1867, 1868, 1886

Bertha Eugenia Loveland, M.D. papers (Acc 48)

  • Manuscripts and notes for the “History of Women in Medicine” sections of Medical Woman’s Journal. Manuscript for “The Homeopathic Medical College for Women; Cleveland, 1868-1870;” and biographical sketch notes on homeopathic women physicians, including Lizzie Hendershott, Ida Catura Coler, and Helen Parker.

“A Plea for the Admission of Women to the Medical Colleges and Institutes of America.” Jackson, Mercy B., M.D.; The Hahnemannian Monthly 3 (August 1867-July 1868): 21-25.

  • An article written by a well-known female homeopath, giving reasons for the admittance of women into medical colleges.

“Co-education at Hahnemann Medical College.” Editorial. The Hahnemann Monthly 53 (March 1918): 177-178.

  • An editorial in favor of women being admitted to the medical, especially homeopathic, profession.

Anne Taylor Kirschmann papers [PDF] - abstract (Acc 2000.15) – “A Vital Force: Women Physicians and Patients in American Homeopathy, 1850-1930

  • Bound dissertation available on-site (WB 930 K61v 1999).

Kristin Mitchell papers [PDF] - abstract (Acc 366)“Her Preference was to Heal’: Women’s Choice of Homeopathic Medicine in the Nineteenth Century United States”

  • Dissertation available on-site.

An Alternative Path: The Making and Remaking of Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia. Rogers, Naomi. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers, 1998. 56-58; 67.

  • Several pages discussing the admission of women to Hahnemann Medical College.

History of Nursing in Pennsylvania. West, Roberta Mayhew. Harrisburg, PA: Evangelical Press, 1939. 875-880.

  • Brief articles on the Woman’s Southern Homeopathic Hospital and the Women’s Homeopathic Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as other homeopathic hospitals.

Women of Hahnemann University [PDF].” Collections (Winter 1997): 7.

  • A brief article summarizing the history of women homeopaths in Philadelphia, circa 1850s-1870s

Philadelphia – World’s Medical Centre. Philadelphia, ca. 1930. 105-108.

  • Brief information, including photographs, on the Woman’s Southern Homeopathic Hospital (Philadelphia) and the Women’s Homeopathic Hospital of Philadelphia.

Resources not held by the Legacy Center

“Homeopathy Timeline.” Whole Health Now. 2013.

  • An interactive timeline featuring many major practitioners, institutions, and events in homeopathic history.

“Women.” Female Medical College & Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania. Cazalet, Sylvain. 2004: 31-33.

  • Brief biographies of notable female homeopathic physicians, including Jean Isabel McKay-Gliddon, Mercy Ruggles Jackson Bisbee, and Mary Jane Safford.

Sartain Family papers, Sartain Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania

  • Contains the letter written in 1886 by Dean A.R. Thomas to the Women’s Medical Club giving an explanation why women would not be admitted to Hahnemann Medical College. This collection may or may not contain other relevant information.

“Adding Women to the Ranks, 1860-1890: A New View with a Homeopathic Lens.” Kirschmann, Ann Taylor. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 73.3 (1999): 429-466.

  • The article focuses on the admission of women homeopaths into medical societies, particularly in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

“Homeopathy.” The Daily Evening Telegraph. [Philadelphia, PA] 9 June 1871: 8.

  • From Library of Congress, Chronicling America.

“Women Homeopathists.” The Evening Star. [Washington, D.C.] 12 June 1871: front page.

  • From Library of Congress, Chronicling America.