Mary Putnam Jacobi
Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi was the first woman to become a member of the Academy of Medicine, but the road to that acceptance wasn’t an easy one.
Graduating from pharmacy school in 1863, the next year she earned her doctorate of medicine from the Female Medical College in Pennsylvania. Realizing after completing a short internship at a hospital that her education hadn’t fully prepared her to practice medicine, she traveled to Paris and fought her way into L’Ecole de Medecine of the University of Paris. Initially refused due to her gender it wasn’t until the minister of education forced the faculty to admit Jacobi that she was allowed to attend the school, graduating in 1871 with a prize winning thesis.
Returning to New York City she opened her own practice and began teaching at the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary where she helped raise the school’s educational standards. Frustrated with the medical training, or lack thereof, that she had received, Jacobi advocated for women to be able to attend the same schools as men as she felt that the small women only programs could not provide the same training and clinical practices as universities with their own hospitals.
In an effort to refute a popular theory of the time claiming women that did not rest during their menstruation would damage their reproductive organs, Jacobi was able to use data, tracking of the pulse including its rate, force, and variation to show the stability of a woman’s health, strength, and agility throughout her monthly cycle. Publishing her findings in an original essay entitled, “The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation” she was able to offer evidence supporting her position and was awarded Harvard University’s Boylston Prize in 1876 for her efforts.
During her lifetime Jacobi would write both fiction and non-fiction works totaling nine books and over 170 articles including “Description of the Early Symptoms of the Meningeal Tumor Compressing the Cerebellum. From Which the Writer Died. Written by Herself” after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor at the age of 63.
Written by Angela Goad