In Her Own Right

Ann Preston, MD Papers

Date range 1831 – 1880
Creator Ann Preston (1813-1872)
Abstract Ann Preston (1813-1872) was a pioneer in women's medical education. She graduated from the first class of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania (later the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania) in 1851, served on the faculty, founded the Woman's Hospital of Philadelphia and a nursing school, and became the first woman dean of the Female Medical College in 1866. This collection documents Dr. Preston's early life and, to a lesser degree, her medical career and the successes as well as the challenges that she and other women physicians faced in the mid nineteenth century.
Description Most of the materials in this collection deal with Preston's childhood or are photocopies from the Chester County Historical Society. Folders 5 and 6 include a number of documents—including published texts, lectures, and commencement addresses—that shed light on how women justified their participation in medicine in the mid-nineteenth century. While Preston acknowledged that the home was woman's sphere, she did not believe they should be confined there. Many women had children to support, and medicine represented a more remunerative and less time-consuming option than sewing or washing. She also argued that women were better at treating other women. In addition to these material and moral concerns, she believed that women should be allowed to study medicine simply because "the exercise of their own judgment and conscience" directed them to do so.
Research interest These papers will be interesting to scholars studying not only the challenges faced by women physicians, including opposition from male physicians and male-dominated institutions, but also those studying the evolution of feminist thought. Preston drew on arguments that women should study medicine both because they were the same as men and because they were different from men. In doing so, she navigated several different intellectual discourses, including natural rights theory, separate spheres ideology, civilization theory, and national pride. These papers thus show how these ideas presented both problems and opportunities to women arguing for expanded rights. Finally, historians of women's education will note that these sources reflect nineteenth- and twentieth-century college women's broader sense of a shared mission.
Size .67 lf
Full collection description Home repository description for Ann Preston, MD Papers
View full item http://hdl.library.upenn.edu/1017/d/pacscl/DUCOM_DUCOMWMSC537
Contributing institution Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center
Digital materials View items from the Ann Preston, MD Papers