Previous Exhibits index

Exhibits are mounted in the lobby of the Main Library on the third floor of the BICC Building on OHSU's Marquam Hill campus. For location of the BICC, see map. For hours of Library operation, see Library hours.

Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians
June-August 2008

A traveling exhibition from the National Library of Medicine opened on June 18, 2008 at the Multnomah County Library, Collins Gallery and will be on display through August 1, 2008. The exhibit tells the extraordinary story of how women struggled for the right to study and to practice medicine in the U.S. The OHSU Historical Collections has provided materials, which honor the lives and achievements of Oregon's women physicians.

Additionally, the OHSU Historical Collections & Archives presents an auxiliary exhibit located at the OHSU Library.

Medical Education Opens Early to Women in Oregon

Located on the banks of the Willamette River in the Oregon Territory, Portland was first known to trappers and settlers as "The Clearing". At the time of its incorporation in 1851, Portland had over 800 inhabitants. By 1879, the population had grown to 17,500.

Oregon joined the Union in 1859 and in 1864 voters selected Salem as its capital. Willamette University in Salem was founded in 1842, birthed from the work of Jason Lee's Methodist mission. It was one of the earliest coeducational institutions in the United States, and its first graduate was a woman. The Medical Department was established at Willamette in 1867, and started offering classes that year. Women were attending the Medical Department as early as 1877. By 1880, the population of Salem was a fraction of that of Portland, with a mere 2,500 inhabitants.

After two or three unsuccessful attempts at establishing a medical college in Portland, it wasn't until the organization of the University of Oregon Medical School in 1887, that medical education finally took a foothold. Willamette University Department of Medicine subsequently merged with UOMS in 1913.

The 1882-1883 catalog of the Oregon Medical College, a short-lived attempt to establish medical education in Portland, states that women had always been admitted to the medical departments both in Salem and Portland

"Admission of Women

Recognizing the equal rights of both sexes to the highest educational advantages, the Board of Trustees, a few years since, made provision for the education of women, and that are now admitted to this as to all departments of the University on the same conditions that are required of men."

By 1940, the population of Portland had burgeoned to over 300,000 people, and yet women graduates for that year totaled 4 women out of 48 total graduates. As of 1940, 146 women had graduated since Willamette University first opened its doors to medical education.

Today the outlook is very different. Women graduates of Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine class of 2007 represent over 60% of total graduates.

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Esther Pohl, 1894
Second woman graduate of the University of Oregon Medical School and first UOMS woman graduate to practice in Oregon.

First Women Educators at the University of Oregon Medical School

Women were first noted as instructors at the University of Oregon Medical School in the school catalog in 1910-1911: Edna Timms, M.D., was the clinical attendant in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the People's Institute, forerunner of the Outpatient Clinic on Marquam Hill.

An early banner year for women in UOMS academic medicine was the session of 1912-1913, which saw Mary Vera Madigan, M.D. instructor in Physiological Chemistry, ascend the faculty ranks as assistant professor. Gertrude French, M.D., was listed as assistant in Ophthalmology and Mary McLachlan, M.D., assisted in Obstetrics.

In 1940, though the faculty and staff had grown exponentially since the medical school's inception, women were mostly represented as secretaries, nurses, social workers, dieticians, technicians, office managers, a librarian, a registrar and a medical illustrator. Only Marian Reed East, M.D., a clinical instructor in pediatrics and Rosa Kubin, Ph.D., an Eli Lilly Fellow in pharmacology were listed among the faculty as instructors.

A leap into 2004 finds a very different landscape: at OHSU, out of 1,999 faculty, 43% were women, for a total of 859 full and part time faculty.

Other resources

July 22, 2008
Kimberly Jensen, PhD
Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy, M.D.: Changing the Face of Medicine in Oregon and Across the World
Listen to podcast

June 21, 2008
Dr. Sima Desai
Keynote Lecture: A Brief History of Women in Medicine
Listen to podcast

April 20, 2007
Kimberly Jensen, PhD
"Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy, M.D., University of Oregon Medical School Class of 1894: Oregon's Doctor to the World"
Streaming video of the lecture

May 12, 2006
Michael Helquist
"KAJ Mackenzie, Marie Equi, and the Oregon Doctor Train: Portland's response to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake"
Streaming video of the lecture

Recommended reading list (PDF)

To learn more about some of Oregon's Outstanding Women Physicians:

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Mae H. Cardwell
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Esther Pohl Lovejoy
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Marie Equi

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Mary Stamm

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Frances Storrs

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Joanna Cain
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Christine Cassell


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