Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Women physicians and the cultures of medicine

I finally had a chance to look at one of our most recent history of medicine book acquisitions, Women physicians and the cultures of medicine, edited by Ellen S. More, Elizabeth Fee, and Manon Parry (Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).

The book is the printed distillation of works originally presented at a symposium, Women Physicians, Women's Politics, Women's Health: Emerging Narratives, hosted by the National Library of Medicine in 2005. The symposium was organized in conjunction with the NLM exhibition, Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians, which visited Portland in summer 2008 (and about which I'm sure some of you may be a bit tired of hearing!).

Happily for local history buffs, one chapter treats of our heroine Esther Pohl Lovejoy, MD and her colleague Ruth A. Parmalee, MD, both eyewitnesses to the tragic conflicts in Greece and Turkey in the 1910s and 1920s . In "Ruth A. Parmelee, Esther P. Lovejoy, and the discourse of motherhood in Asia Minor and Greece in the early twentieth century", Virginia A. Metaxas compares and contrasts the two women's responses to the crises and the language and imagery they used in their efforts to mobilize support for refugees. Noting that the people of Greece and Asia Minor were seen as "other" by Western audiences, Metaxas asserts that "the American public responded to crisis after crisis by supporting financial aid and relief personnel ... in part because of the way American medical women framed the story." Her thesis, that women physicians "shaped a narrative of motherhood" to "justify their presence as helpers in sometimes horrific situations" is bolstered by illustrations from not only medical discourse, but also Christian missionary and secular humanistic discourse. The interesting, but short piece left me wanting to know more--the hallmark of a good paper.

The book offers a lot more to readers interested in women in medicine. Check out the contents list below, and then check out the book at your local library...

Table of contents:
  1. Mary Putnam Jacobi and the nineteenth-century politics of women's health research / Carla Bittel
  2. Maternity and the female body in the writings of Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, 1829-1902 / Arleen Marcia Tuchman
  3. Female patient agency and the 1892 trial of Dr. Mary Dixon Jones in late nineteenth-century Brooklyn / Regina Morantz-Sanchez
  4. A Chinese woman doctor in progressive era Chicago / Judy Tzu-Chun Wu
  5. Professionalism versus sexuality in the career of Dr. Mary Calderone, 1904-1998 / Ellen S. More
  6. The legacy of masculine codes of honor and the admission of women to the medical profession in the nineteenth century / Robert A. Nye
  7. Women physicians and the twentieth-century women's health movement in the United States / Sandra Morgen
  8. Narrative forms in Our bodies, ourselves / Susan Wells
  9. Feminists fight the culture of exclusion in medical education, 1970-1990 / Naomi Rogers
  10. Women physicians and medical sects in nineteenth-century Chicago / Eve Fine
  11. Ruth A. Parmelee, Esther P. Lovejoy, and the discourse of motherhood in Asia Minor and Greece in the early twentieth century / Virginia A. Metaxas
  12. Women physicians and a new agenda for college health, 1920-1970 / Heather Munro Prescott

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