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Meeting at the Hall of the Union League….


Meeting at the Hall of the Union League –
The Importance of the Movement Set
Forth By Hon. Robert B. Roosevelt, Dr.
Emily Blackwell, and Others.

A very large audience assembled last
evening in the Union League lecture room in
response to a call for a public meeting in sup-
port of the newly formed Association for the
Advancement of the Medical Education of
Women. Mr. William E. Dodge, Jr., presided,
and introduced the exercises with a brief
address, in which he called attention to the
great work accomplished by a few noble
ladies during the war, and prefaced the
remarks of the other speakers with a brief
statement of the general objects and aims
of the organization, introducing, in conclusion,
Hon. Robert B. Roosevelt, who observed in
commencing his address, that it had been
remarked by an eminent medical authority
that a large number of women suffered dur-
ing their whole lives from diseases that were
perfectly curable. An eloquent clergyman had
said that it was a crime for a man to be sick.
This was an extreme view, but it contained the
germ of the great truth that it was criminal
for one to suffer from diseases that might
be readily avoided. This feebleness of women
did not end with them ; it reacted upon those
about them, produced discord between husband
and wife, and was a large factor in domestic in-
felicity. The reason why women were not so
often sought as physicians was the general im-
pression of a lack of thorough medical education.
There was some basis for this impression, and
it was the purpose of the society in behalf of
which he spoke to obviate this deficiency.
Women were in their proper places as physi-
cians to women. He was convinced that the
deplorable health of women was owing to a
want of proper medical advice. The sympathy
of women for one another enabled the female
physician to penetrate to the very source of
the disease. Nothing was hidden from her
through motives of delicacy. Mountains of
head gear, thin-soled shoes, glove-fitting
and shape-destroying corsets no doubt have
considerable influence in producing general
ill-health among women ; but he was persuaded
that the lack of medical advisers of their own
sex had been the leading cause.

Dr. Emily Blackwell gave a short resume of
the history of the movement. It had commenced
when, in 1849, her sister, Dr. Elizabeth Black-
well, applied for admission at the Medical College
at Geneva. In 1852 Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell
applied at one of the dispensaries for admission
as a woman physician, and was denied. But the
refusal was coupled with advice regarding the
only way to get over the difficulty ; and the
result was the establishment of the small
women’s hospital and dispensary on a single
floor in Bleecker-street, now familiar as the
New-York Infirmary. The hospital had only 12
beds. Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell and herself were
among the attending physicians. Although
there were at the time two or three small
medical colleges for women, there were no
adequate facilities for clinical study. The
New-York Infirmary was really founded to
meet the want thus arising. The three
largest hospitals since founded by women
in this country were established by graduates
of that little dispensary. Two of them were
the Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and the
New-England Hospital in Boston. In 1865 the
College of the New-York Infirmary was opened
under the law of the State of New-York. In
1870 the first class was graduated, and it
numbered 46. The college was started by a
staff of professors who did not propose to
limit their instruction for want of pecuniary
support, and had been the first to establish
a professorship of hygiene, and to maintain
a college year of eight and a half months
instead of the usual four months session.
Of the 46 graduates above designated six
were now the wives of physicians, and were
practicing medicine with their husbands. Four
were daughters of physicians, and were in
practice with their fathers. Five had gone
as missionaries, and one had succeeded in
establishing a hospital for women in
Eastern Asia. Seven were now abroad
studying at European universities. Two
had passed a competitive examination for
hospital engagements, and one was at Mount
Sinai Hospital as a member of the medical
staff. The work of these women in medicine
had been of the class styled general practice,
and surgical cases had been freely and suc-
cessfully attempted by them, particularly
surgical cases in diseases of women. Most
of them had remained in the profession, and
many of them were now earning large incomes
by professional effort.

Dr. Dorman P. Eaton addressed the assembly
on the state of female medical education in
Europe. He believed that this was the first
public meeting to urge the cause of higher
medical education for women. He thought that
the struggle was pretty nearly over in the
City of New-York. At first, on the reception
of the programme of exercises, he was a
little impressed by the fact that the name
of no prominent physician of his own sex
appeared on the list of speakers ; but when
he came to read the list of Vice-Presidents
he was most agreeably undeceived. He
believed that the first society for medical
education of females was founded in Boston
in 1848. A similar society was founded in
Philadelphia in 1850. In 1870 there were
720 women physicians in the United States ;
now there must be more than 1,000. Fifteen
or twenty years had elapsed since the woman
question had been one of careful discussion
in Sweden. In 1873 that grand old institution,
the University of Upsal, opened its doors to
women. In Denmark, a country not very dis-
similar to Sweden, the same process had
been gone through with ; and in 1873 the
University of Copenhagen opened its doors
to women to take all degrees, saving law and
divinity. Somewhat the same process had been
gone through with in Holland. There was some-
thing a little peculiar about the manner in which
the question arose there. The medical schools
were first opened by women wishing to become
apothecaries, but finally all the degrees were
opened to them. Before 1874 the question came
to the surface in conservative Germany, and the
ancient University of Leipsic took the lead there
in this great movement for the medical education
of women. In Russia, where a peculiar struggle
had been recently going on, colleges were first
established under Catherine, years ago, for the
education of nurses, and 40 years ago nearly
every Russian village had its educated nurse.
In 1864 the universities of all Russia were
opened to women, but three or four years
later the privilege was withdrawn, only to be
renewed again a year ago. In 1870 the Italian
universities removed the barrier. In 1876
the University of Paris commenced to admit
women for degrees. In Great Britain the uni-
versities of London and Dublin had at last
given way.

Dr. Mary Putnam-Jacobi was the next
speaker, and, limiting herself to the ethical
aspects of the subject, she appealed to the
public to support the purposes for which the
association had been established, and gave a
short account of the struggles of the college
of the New-York Infirmary. She stated the
aims of the association as having reference
purely to the best method of putting the
medical education of women on an equality
with that of male students.

Col. Thomas N. Higginson then delivered
a brief address, and the meeting adjourned.

NEW-YORK TIMES MAR 27, 1878 P 10 C 3

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