A traveling exhibition from the
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
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
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
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
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
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.
- 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
video of the lecture
May 12, 2006
- Michael Helquist
"KAJ Mackenzie, Marie Equi, and the Oregon Doctor Train:
response to the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake"
video of the lecture