Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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Cablegram to American Women's Hospitals headquarters requesting help from the American people for the Smyrna refugees in Greece.

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“Millions of refugees, almost totally without men”: The American Women’s Hospitals and the Fire of Smyrna

Although the Allied countries did not permit women to serve as officers in the military medical corps, there was a desperate need for doctors in the wake of World War I. The desire to advance women in the medical profession and to relieve those suffering in post-war conditions prompted American women physicians to form the first American Women’s Hospital in France in 1918. The American Women’s Hospitals (AWH) was founded to provide medical care to the people of war-torn France during World War I, and subsequently established hospitals in other parts of Europe, continuing to provide medical care to devastated populations after wars and conflicts had officially ended.

In 1922 the women of the American Women's Hospitals (AWH) were among the first aid groups to establish emergency services on the Greek island of Macronissi to care for the refugees who fled the burning city of Smyrna. Dr. Mabel Elliott used strong language to describe the scale and severity of deprivation affecting the refugees on the island, and to make the case that more Americans needed to get involved to alleviate the suffering. She explained that the AWH is providing medical care to an ever-increasing number of homeless and hungry refugees, almost all women and children, and that many other resources were needed besides medical care if they were to survive. Macronissi had no existing sources of food, shelter, water, or medical care, and the AWH could not provide everything on its own.

Creator: Mabel Elliott

Contributor: American Women's Hospitals

Language: english

Item Number: a144_134

Pages: 5

Size: 21.5 x 17.6 cm

Physical Collection: Records of American Women`s Hospitals 1917-1982, ACC-144

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. The American Women’s Hospitals and the Fire of Smyrna: Millions of refugees, almost totally without men. Doctor or Doctress?: Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians. The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections. Philadelphia, PA. Date of access.

Women physicans

American Women's Hospitals

Women's health services

Missionaries, Medical- Turkey



Elliott, Mabel Evelyn, b. 1881

Macronissi (Makronisos), Greece

New York (NY)