- American Women Physicians in World War I
The website of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) presents an informative, well-researched, and well-illustrated online exhibit on American Women Physicians in World War I. The exhibit is largely biographical and incorporates material on and images of twelve physicians. Some of the physicians are well known to scholars, such as Esther Pohl Lovejoy and Rosalie Slaughter Morton. Others are less famous. Dr. Harriett Alleyne Rice, the first African American to graduate from Wellesley College, and a graduate of the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, worked at Hull House serving the working poor, before opening her own medical practice. During World War I she served at a hospital in France caring for wounded soldiers and was awarded the bronze medal of Reconnaissance Francaise, a medal of French gratitude, in 1919. Dr. Anna Tjomsland, an immigrant from Norway, earned her degrees at Cornell, became a citizen, and worked as an anesthetist at U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 1 during the war, publishing a history of the unit in 1941 in Bellevue in France.
The opening description of the exhibit informs readers that the Army Surgeon General rejected women physicians from the Medical Corps, but accepted nurses, forcing women doctors who wanted to serve to find their way overseas by other means. The core of the exhibit text then provides descriptions of numerous aspects of their war service in French Military Hospitals, the Women’s Oversea Hospital, the American Red Cross, and the American Women’s Hospital Service, among other postings. Scholars can follow the links in the text to the papers of individual physicians, books, and exhibits. Dr. Tjomsland’s book is one such link; the family history website of Dr. Rice is another. The website also includes a bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
For those teaching American women’s history, history of medicine, and military history, the website will provide useful information and images as well as links to some excellent materials for students to analyze in class or short assignments. The Doctor or Doctress website of the Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center is one such link, and it is designed for use by students and teachers. In short, as an information source and host to useful links, this is a terrific exhibition website. Perhaps it will get better. The annual meeting of the American Medical Women’s Physician in 2017 will host a short documentary about women physicians’ war efforts at the National World War I Museum and Memorial. Hopefully, it will end up on the AMWA site. [End Page 805]