Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

National History Day

National History Day 2020-2021 — Student and Teacher Resources

Doctor or Doctress has a number of rich, interesting topics and resources that work well with the 
2020-2021 NHD theme - Communication in History: The Key to Understanding

Learn more about the 2020-2021 theme at »


NHD topic ideas for 2021:

  • Eliza Grier and Matilda Evans: Two Women, Two Paths
    Eliza Grier and Matilda Evans were two African American women who graduated from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1897. After receiving their medical degrees, both Grier and Evans set up practices in South Carolina. As physicians, they managed to pave successful careers for themselves. In times of need, they realized the importance of reaching out for help, whether it would be for themselves or someone else. Primary sources & background »
  • Early Medical Missionaries in the Middle East: "Why I Want to Go to Arabia"
    Lacking opportunities to practice medicine in the US, graduates of WMCP decided to pursue other opportunities as missionaries in other countries, mainly India and China. By 1947, 150 graduates were served as medical missionaries. Through their correspondences and other personal accounts of their time served, it allowed a new view into the lives of the women of those countries and the medical care they received. Primary sources & background »
  • Pioneers in the Face of Adversity: "The Mob of '69"
    In November 1869, a group of 20-30 female students from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP), went to the Pennsylvania Hospital amphitheater to attend a lecture for the first time with male medical students. Through different publications, this story took the country by storm. Some articles claimed that the male students harassed their female counterparts and others believed they were just against the women attending. Primary sources & background »
  • The American Women’s Hospitals at Home: Public Health in Depression-Era Appalachia
    Amidst the financial and social devastation of the Great Depression, many rural, isolated communities struggled to keep themselves healthy. In these areas, public health relief efforts like those conducted by the American Women's Hospitals (AWH) were critical. As the AWH strengthened the Appalachia community, they met the geographic and public health challenges and managed to obtain media representation for their organization. Through photographs, AWH communicated the needs of the Appalachian people to those who could help with financial donations to keep the AWH in the area to continuing service. Primary sources & background »

This year's NHD suggestions selected & described by our Archives Assistant, longtime NHD competitor, and 2020 NHD Philly Fellow Kyah Hawkins!

In addition to these suggested topics, explore all of our Digital Collections on Women Physicians, with free online access to 1000s of items, including images, correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, college records, diaries, and ephemera documenting the history of women.

For all teachers and classrooms, we offer No-cost Virtual Services like research assistance, virtual classroom visits, and live video tours. Contact us to make arrangements and learn more!

If you are in the Philadelphia region and want to visit, we welcome students and teachers to use and tour our archives, all at no cost. For students and teachers, we are open evenings by appointment. (In-person services suspended during COVID-19 restrictions.)

Email us at if you have any questions.