Thursday, March 11, 2010

"The sentiment of the State in regard to advancement generally"

This morning, a researcher asked us whether we had any information on Alice Hall Chapman, MD, who practiced for a time in Woodland, WA, before an "injury" necessitated her retirement from medicine. We only know Alice's name through her connection with C.J. Hoffman, MD, whose scrapbook, glass lantern slides, and medical equipment were deposited in our collections.

We had no Biographical File on her, but a check of the state medical board register indicates that she was licensed to practice in Oregon in 1893. It also indicates that she received her medical degree from Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1886. In the 1898 directory, "Chapman, Alice H." is listed as having a practice in Eugene, OR (where her husband was president of the University of Oregon), but there is no mention of her in Larsell's The Doctor in Oregon. An internet search revealed a short biographical sketch of Alice and her husband in Judy Card's history of Woodland, "Fields of Flowers and Forests of Firs," published on the Lewis River history site.

And then, we stumbled upon this interesting report from Chapman to the Alumnae Association of the Woman's Medical College, published in their Transactions in 1900 (p. 120-121). A summary of the situation of women physicians in Oregon, it reads in part:
"So far as I can learn, only one woman physician has ever been appointed to a public office .... None of the local societies has ever admitted women. Application has been made to the Portland society several times, but in each instance the applicant has been kindly advised to withdraw her name before its presentation to the society, and has always followed the advice, on the assurance that she could not possibly be elected....

Until recently women physicians have not had a good name, particularly in Portland. Some of the earlier practitioners did a notoriously irregular and criminal practice and gave a bad reputation to the profession for women. It has been lived down in large part, however, by the later comers who have maintained a high standard of life and practice. Their persistent effort has had its effect...
So, with active practices and the need to network just as men did in the local medical organizations, women physicians that year established their own group, the Medical Club of Portland, open to all "regular" women physicians.

By 1906, however, Alice was across the river in Washington (as evidenced by this article by R.C. Coffey, in which he describes the treatments Alice prescribed for a patient with intestinal intussusception). She provided medical services to that small town until C.J. Hoffman took over her practice sometime before 1920. For more about Hoffman, see our guide to the Carl Julius Hoffman Scrapbook Collection, 2008-002.

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