Women in Osteopathic Medicine

In 1892, Andrew Taylor Still did the unimaginable when he accepted women and men equally in his newly opened American School of Osteopathy. Thomas Quinn, DO, showcases some of the valiant women who rose above adversity to become osteopathic doctors in those early years, and includes prominent women osteopathic physicians up to the present time. The stories of their fight against the inequality of the sexes in medicine are intertwined with the struggles of osteopathy to be accepted as a valid scientific practice, illuminating the innovative and determined individuals who helped osteopathic medicine develop into the flourishing profession it is today. (Truman State University Press)

This is a companion website to Dr. Quinn's book.

All royalities from book sales go towards student scholarships!

29 June 2011

Andrew T. Still, MD, DO "Liberator of Women"

One of the many titles bestowed on Andrew Taylor Still, DO during his lifetime was “Liberator of Women”.  This is one of the least known of his monikers, but after “Founder of Osteopathic Medicine”, it is probably the most important.

Dr. Still was well deserving of this title.  There is probably no other individual in this country and possibly throughout the world who did more than Dr. Still to liberate women and to make it possible for women to study and enter into professional life on an equal basis as men..

Let’s look at just some of his more notable accomplishments that earned Dr. Still this esteemed title: “LIBERATOR OF WOMEN”.

In 1892, the year that he opened the American School of Osteopathy (ASO) there were 105 medical schools in the United States.  Of these, there were 68 medical schools that refused to accept any female students at all.  Of the remaining 37 schools there were 32 schools that accepted an occasional token female and there were five all female medical schools that did not accept any male students.

·        The ASO was the first medical school in the United States that accepted both male and female students from the first day it opened on 3 October 1892. This medical college continues today as the A. T. Still University, Kirksville College of Osteopathic  Medicine.
o       The following year 1893 Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (JHSOM) opened as the first allopathic college to be co-educational since it’s founding.  It was originally planed that JHSOM was to be an all male school, but a group of 25 well-to-do Baltimore women offered a grant of a half million dollars (an extremely large grant for that era) with the condition that the school accept female students.  JHSOM decided to accept women in order to obtain the grant.  Thus JHSOM became the second medical school in this country to accept both male and female students from the day they opened.

·        The ASO was the first medical school in this country to have true equality of male and female students. 
o       The original catalogue of the ASO stated:
Women are admitted on the same terms as men.  It is the policy of the school that there shall be no distinction as to sex, and that all shall have the same opportunities, and be held to the same requirements.  They pursue the same studies, attend the same lectures, are subject to the same rules, and pass the same examinations.

·        In the entire history of the profession founded by Dr. Still there has never been any osteopathic medical school that did not accept both male and female students.  There has never been an all male or all female osteopathic medical school.

·        There is only one documented incidence where Dr. Still showed sexual favoritism and that was in the admission fees to his school.  Male students were charged $500. per year whereas he charged only $200. per year for female students.  There is no documented reason for this difference in tuition.  Based on Dr. Still’s long history of support and encouragement of women to enter early osteopathy, I believe that he did this to encourage female enrollment into the osteopathic medical school.  During this time it was extremely difficult for women to gain acceptance into most other medical schools.

·        In the infirmary of the ASO, Dr. Still insisted that there should always be at least one female osteopathic physician available to see patients at all times.

·        During Dr. Still’s lifetime there are many documented instances of Dr. Still offering praise and encouragement to women to practice osteopathy.

·        Dr. Still immediately following the graduation of the first female DO, (Nettie Bolles, DO) offered her a position as a professor at the ASO.

·        Dr. Still appointed a female DO as the first editor of the Journal of Osteopathy and encouraged her to devote a section of the journal to women. 

·        During Dr. Still’s lifetime the majority of the editors of the Journal of Osteopathy were females, appointed to the position by him.

During his entire lifetime Dr. Still was surrounded by strong women.  His mother was a true pioneer woman on the American frontier.  He was married twice.  His first wife died shortly after childbirth.  His second wife was with him during the trials and hardships prior to the founding of osteopathy.  They were married for 51 years when she died in 1910.  The stories of Dr. Still’s wives will be coming next.

Tom Quinn, DO, FAOCOPM

Additional links for information on osteopathic medicine:
American Osteopathic Association - http://www.osteopathic.org/Pages/default.aspx

American Association of Colages of Osteopathic Medicine-

Museum of Osteopathic Medicine-