Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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Dr. Lovejoy, president of the American Women’s Hospitals, reported on the chaotic and desperate conditions of the Turkish city of Smyrna as it burned to the ground in September 1922. Forced to flee the city, thousands of residents gathered on the docks, waiting and hoping to board ships bound for 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 (AWH) in France in 1918 to provide medical care to the people of war-torn France. The AWH subsequently established hospitals in other parts of Europe, continuing to provide medical care to devastated populations after wars and conflicts had officially ended. In the years following the first World War, the Ottoman Empire was dissolved and divided among the Allied Powers, resulting in violent conflicts and chaos. In 1922, AWH president, Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, witnessed the initial exodus of thousands of ethnic Greek residents from the Turkish city of Smyrna (now called Izmir), which was set ablaze and destroyed. A small group of women from the AWH were among the first aid groups to establish emergency services on the Greek island of Macronissi to care for the refugees who fled Smyrna. Macronissi had no existing sources of food, shelter, water, or medical care. The AWH established camps and provided medical care to an ever-increasing number of homeless and hungry refugees, almost all women and children.

Dr. Esther Lovejoy of the American Women’s Hospitals, wrote this speech to be read aloud on a radio broadcast for the Federation of Churches. A witness to the refugee crisis, Lovejoy vividly describes the chaos, violence, and disease that erupted on the docks as the Greek and Armenian residents tried to board ships bound for Greece as their city burned. Lovejoy intended her detailed descriptions to make the case that the “Christian nations”—meaning the Allied countries of Western Europe and North America—needed to help the Greek and Armenian Christian refugees. She believed that these nations had the resources to alleviate the unstable political and humanitarian situation.

Creator: Lovejoy, Esther Pohl, 1870-1967

Language: english

Item Number: a144_133

Pages: 8

Size: 21.7 x 28

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



Lovejoy, Esther Pohl, 1870-1967

Macronissi (Makronisos), Greece

New York (NY)

Athens, Greece