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This article was published in The American Surgeon Volume 81, Issue 1, January 2015, Pages 9-11.

The published version is available at PMID: 25569042 . Copyright © Ingenta


Women phsycians in the United States were virtually nonexistent in the early to mid-1800s. Traditional medical schools still did not accept women, and few secretarian or eclectic medical schools were beginning to open their doors to female students. In 1849 at Geneva College, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States.1 At the time of the Civil War, the few women who had managed to obtain medical degrees mainly served as nurses in the war, because society was not yet ready to accept the female physician.2 Dr. Mary Edwards Walker would help change the role of women physicians, becoming not only a valuable surgeon for the Union Army, but also a catalyst for the introduction and advancement of women in medicine.