Ann Preston

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    Ann Preston (Unknown photographer / Public domain)

    Ann Preston (Unknown photographer / Public domain)

    Ann Preston, a pioneer women doctor, was a Philadelphia physician and educator who fought for the rights of women to learn, practice, and teach medicine in the nineteenth century.

    At first, she was refused admission to all four local medical colleges in Philadelphia because of her sex.

    In 1851, however, she graduated from the first class at the newly established Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and was appointed professor of physiology and hygiene.

    Since women were effectively banned from the public teaching clinics of the city, Preston led fund raising efforts for the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which was affiliated with the college.

    The daughter of Quaker abolitionists and supporters of women’s rights, Preston became the first woman dean of the Female Medical College in 1866 and continued in that post for the rest of her life.

    In 1868 she obtained permission from the Pennsylvania Hospital to attend general clinics there, but as Sarah C. Hall one of the former students, later wore it was not easy. She describes the one day event for the 75th anniversary of The Women’s Medical College.

    “We were allowed to enter by way of the back stairs, and were greeted by the men students with hisses and paper wads, and frequently during the clinic were treated to more of the same. The Professor of Surgery came in and bowed to the men only. More hisses…We retired the same way we entered and, on reaching the outer door, found men students lined up on one side of the way, and we, to get out, had to take the road and walk to the street to the tune of ‘The Rogues March.’ Our students separated as soon as possible. All who could took the little antiquated horse cars in any direction they were going. The men separated also, and in groups of twos, threes, and fours, followed the women.” (from “Changing the Face of Medicine”).

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