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Out of the Dead House

Nineteenth-Century Women Physicians and the Writing of Medicine

Susan Wells

Publication Year: 2001

Rediscovers women doctors who helped create styles of medical writing still used today -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In the last decades of the nineteenth century, two thousand women physicians formed a significant and lively scientific community in the United States. Many were active writers; they participated in the development of medical record-keeping and research, and they wrote self-help books, social and political essays, fiction, and poetry. Out of the Dead House rediscovers the contributions these women made to the developing practice of medicine and to a community of women in science. Susan Wells combines studies of medical genres, such as the patient history or the diagnostic conversation, with discussions of individual writers. The women she discusses include Ann Preston, the first woman dean of a medical college; Hannah Longshore, a successful practitioner who combined conventional and homeopathic medicine; Rebecca Crumpler, the first African American woman physician to publish a medical book; and Mary Putnam Jacobi, writer of more than 180 medical articles and several important books. Wells shows how these women learned to write, what they wrote, and how these texts were read. Out of the Dead House also documents the ways that women doctors influenced medical discourse during the formation of the modern profession. They invented forms and strategies for medical research and writing, including methods of using survey information, taking patient histories, and telling case histories. Out of the Dead House adds a critical episode to the developing story of women as producers and critics of culture, including scientific culture. "A highly original contribution to studies of the relationship between gender, medicine, and science, offering fresh insights regarding the entrance of women into the medical profession. Wells's nuanced story will appeal to literary scholars, medical historians, and all readers interested in revisiting this complex and rewarding terrain."--Regina Morantz-Sanchez, author of Conduct Unbecoming a Woman: Medicine on Trial in Turn-of-the-Century Brooklyn Susan Wells is professor of English at Temple University. She is the author of Sweet Reason: Rhetoric and the Discourses of Modernity and The Dialectics of Representation.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-2

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1. Out of the Dead House

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pp. 3-15

In 1840, the ten-year-old Marie Zakrzewska was living at La Charité , the Berlin midwifery school. Her mother had obtained special permission to enter the school, usually closed to married women, and Marie was permitted to join her when the girl’s weak eyes needed treatment. (Marie’s father, a man of “liberal opinions,” “impetuous temperament,” and “revolutionary...

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2. Medical Conversations and Medical Histories

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pp. 16-56

The medical practice that the first women physicians entered was one which valued talk. The body’s story was not read from diagnostic images or test results but composed from information provided by the patient and confirmed, if need be, in direct examination by the physician. Medicine was therefore a heavily discursive practice, worked out patient by patient in a...

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3. Invisible Writing I: Ann Preston Invents an Institution

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pp. 57-79

Nothing from the first thirty-seven years of Ann Preston’s life suggests that she was interested in medicine, let alone that she would become dean of a medical school. In a letter to her teacher and lifelong friend, Hannah Monaghan Darlington, the twenty-year-old Preston reported some casual botanizing,1 but most of her letters concerned political issues and recent literature...

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4. Learning to Write Medicine

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pp. 80-121

Nineteenth-century medical students saw the thesis and its associated examination as a demanding rite of passage.1 Even though the thesis required nothing more than a workmanly review of current medical knowledge, it was still a major task for a student. While Joseph Longshore waited to be examined on his thesis by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in...

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5. Invisible Writing II: Hannah Longshore and the Borders of Regularity

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pp. 122-145

Hannah Longshore (1819–1901) is at once more obscure and more available to us than Ann Preston. She maintained a careful distance from the Woman’s Medical College and its alumnae association and never identified herself exclusively with any institution. But unlike Martha Sawin and Phebe Way, she did not vanish from the public record. Although Hannah Longshore’s career...

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6. Mary Putnam Jacobi: Medicine as Will and Idea

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pp. 146-192

“Description of Early Symptoms of the Meningeal Tumor” was a self-report of Mary Putnam Jacobi’s final illness, circulated to her physician friends to confirm that her case was not treatable.1 Nothing less than a brain tumor brought Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842–1906) to the limits of her will; to her, only a terminal illness could have explained an unwillingness to plan and...

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7. Forbidden Sights: Women and the Visual Economy of Medicine

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pp. 193-228

On November 6, 1869, a small group of students from the Woman’s Medical College quietly entered the new amphitheater of the Pennsylvania Hospital and took seats together.1 Their entry into these clinical lectures was a welcome turning point in the college’s struggle for acceptance. The Philadelphia...


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pp. 229-279

Works Cited

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pp. 280-306


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pp. 307-312

E-ISBN-13: 9780299171735
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299171742

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2001

OCLC Number: 813844965
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Out of the Dead House

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Subject Headings

  • Women physicians -- United States.
  • Preston, Ann, 1813-1872.
  • Jacobi, Mary Putnam, 1842-1906.
  • Longshore, Hannah, 1819-1901.
  • Women in medicine -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
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