Doctor or Doctress?

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A report about the activities of the hospital in Luzancy, France, made by Dr. M. Louise Hurrell to American Women’s Hospitals. The American Women's Hospitals (AWH) developed from the War Service Committee of the Medical Women's National Association (later, American Medical Women's Association) in 1917 to provide, register, and finance American women physicians in order to aid those affected by World War I and provide medical and emergency relief to refugees. Dr. M. Louise Hurrell was the second director of the American Women’s Hospitals. She took the position in November 1918, and ran the hospital at Luzancy until it moved to Blérancourt in June 1919. She remained director until August 1919.

Why It Matters

After the armistice was signed, living conditions were slow to improve in areas devastated by the fighting. The doctors of AWH treated a large variety of illnesses and injuries, including broken bones, dental work, and diseases such as typhoid and pneumonia. The people of the villages in which AWH operated valued and were grateful for the women physicians’ work.

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  • What is the role of the AWH in the village of Luzancy?
  • How do the villagers of Luzancy feel about the presence of the AWH?

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The American Women’s Hospital at Luzancy continues its many activities. In the ancient little village it is quite the center of life and interest… Many are the evidences of true friendliness which we receive from the villagers, making us feel that they are proud of claiming us as one of their own, and also that we have been adopted by them. Our surgeon has been nicknamed “Docteur Coupe, Coupe,” ["Doctor Cut Cut"] by the villagers, and is intensely admired, her clever operations being discussed as boastfully and proudly by them as if she were a daughter of Luzancy soil herself. Some weeks ago from the railroad station we had a young American soldier brought to us, who had met with a horrible accident to his hand. It was a mangled, crushed mess and at first it seemed an utterly impossible case for anything short of amputation. However, realizing that anyone can amputate, but only a clever surgeon can save, an attempt was made at preservation…our surgeon put together the fragments, and the way in which she and our nurses worked over the hand for succeeding weeks only the patient and themselves can tell. After a while the hand began to shape itself, and he was sent for Xray examination to Paris… The Army surgeon in Paris had no praise too high for the work, marveling much, as the Xray showed that almost every bone in the hand had been crushed, or simply fractured…and yet our boy comes out of his accident with a workable hand. [What this soldier said about] our hospital gave us great pleasure; he called it “a regular home for a fellow,” and such we have aimed to make it, for when does one more need a home than when one is ill, and we believe that the ideal hospital is the one that has no institution to it, that the ideal hospital is for patients, not for nurses and doctors, so all our days are visiting days… A mad dog added to our work two weeks ago, bit many children in several villages…and the rapidity with which those children were brought to us for treatment showed the trust which we have earned throughout the country side.