Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

National History Day

National History Day 2018 — Student and Teacher Resources

Doctor or Doctress has a number of rich, interesting topics and resources that work well with the 
2018 NHD theme: Conflict and Compromise in History

Learn more about the 2017-2018 theme at »


NHD topic ideas for 2018:

  • A new way of life: Women doctors enter the workforce
    When the first medical college for women opened in 1850, women were expected to stay at home with their families. These pioneer women challenged those expectations in their entrance into the professional sphere. Their early careers were not without obstacles, but they led the way for others in fighting for their place in a field that had been dominated by men. Primary sources & background »
  • Women medical students face opposition from their male counterparts
    In 1869, nearly 20 years after the first women’s medical school opened, female students faced a mob of male students who thought that women had no right to be doctors.  Explore the opposition that 19th century female medical students faced and overcame to acquire a medical education. Primary sources & background »
  • Women in wartime make their own opportunities
    During the intense and unprecedented fighting of World War I, U.S. women were barred from serving as official army doctors. Determined to serve, a group of female physicians established the American Women's Hospitals as an outlet for their skills. While serving in France, the AWH provided essential medical care to French civilians in areas devastated by war. Primary sources & background »
  • Black women doctors overcome obstacles
    Around 1900, African American women who became doctors had trouble finding jobs, so many created their own opportunities and became leaders caring for people in their communities. Primary sources & background »


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.

If you are in the Philadelphia region and want to visit, we welcome students and teachers to use and tour our archives.  For students and teachers, we are open evenings by appointment.

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

Email us at if you have any questions.