Text Women's History Month - March 2023 over a background with many cartoon women

Celebrate Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month! This year we are sharing information about three incredible women in the history of medicine. Read below to learn more about Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler–the first Black woman to receive an MD in the US, Dr. Elizabeth Yates–one of the first women to graduate from Stanford Medicine’s predecessor, Cooper Medical College, and Dr. Alice Hamilton–founder of industrial medicine.

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Title page from Dr. Crumpler's book, A Book on Medical Discourses

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first Black woman to receive an MD in the United States. Dr. Crumpler graduated from New England Female Medical in Boston, Massachusetts in 1864, and her official degree was “Doctress of Medicine.” Following the Civil War, she traveled to Virginia where she worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide medical care to formerly enslaved people. 

Her 1883 publication A Book on Medical Discourses provided medical advice to women and new mothers. A digitized version can be seen online.

Dr. Crumpler is discussed in Jasmine Brown’s 2023 publication, Twice as Hard: The Stories of Black Women Who Fought to Become Physicians from the Civil War to the 21st Century. Lane Library provides a hard copy and digital version of the book.

Dr. Elizabeth Yates

A page from Dr. Yates' handwritten MD thesis, Diphtheria

Dr. Elizabeth Yates received her MD from Cooper Medical College (the school that later became Stanford Medicine) in 1887. She was one of the first women to graduate from the school, and she went on to a career in clinical practice and administration as testified in a 1918 Press Democrat article announcing her election as the President of the Sonoma County Medical Society. The Medical History Center in Lane Library has her handwritten MD thesis, Diphtheria.

Dr. Alice Hamilton

Title page of a biography of Dr. Hamilton

Dr. Alice Hamilton lived a long life (1869 to 1970). She received her MD from the University of Michigan in 1893.  Dr. Hamilton was a founder of the field of industrial medicine and worked alongside Jane Addams at Hull House. In 1919, she became the first female faculty member at Harvard. Learn more about Dr. Hamilton in Alice Hamilton, Pioneer Doctor in Industrial Medicine.

Looking for More Women’s History Content

As a reminder, you can also learn more about another early Stanford Medicine pioneer, Dr. Adelaide Brown, in an online exhibit from our Medical History Center. If you have questions about the history of medicine, explore the resources on our Medical History Center website or contact Drew Bourn, History Curator, for help.

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