Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

They'll look at me sidewise and say 'that's her' and I do hope they won't insist on calling me a 'doctress.'
                                                                                   -- Dr. Mary McGavran, 1893


Women's entry into the professional world as physicians was debated for decades. The stories found here capture the lives of women as they took on this new role in a male-dominated world, helping to shape a pivotal change for American women.

Why "Doctor or Doctress"? 

Some, like Dr. Samuel Gregory of the New England Female Medical College, advocated the title of "Doctress," for women physicians, arguing that the "ladies of the profession...should have a title exclusively their own" that wouldn't cause "inconvenience and many annoyances."  

Others, like Dr. Mary McGavran, felt that the real annoyance was the diminutive, second-class status implied by "Doctress." The choice between the softer, feminized title, "Doctress," and the stronger, more highly respected title, "Doctor," reflected women’s transitional status as they entered the professional realm.