Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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Photographs of Woman’s Medical College students working in the chemistry lab; students observing an operation at Woman’s Medical College Hospital; and Woman’s Medical College students working learning gross anatomy by performing dissection.

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“I’ve finished the eye and I’m up on my ear”: A Female Medical Student’s Life

The students at Woman’s Medical College were encouraged to attend a four-year course in order to obtain their medical degrees. While it was possible to obtain a medical degree in just three years, Laura Heath Hills and some of her classmates opted for the four-year course, which allowed for a more thorough study of medical subjects as well as more time spent in clinics observing medical procedures. In addition to lectures, the student also worked in laboratories and observed surgeries. This hands-on instruction provided valuable training for the students and offered them chances to gain first-hand experience in surgery, obstetrics, diagnoses, and pharmacology. Because the College was a medical school, the classes women enrolled in differed greatly from classes female students at other colleges were required to take. Many early colleges that admitted women offered courses in “Domestic Science.” Woman’s Medical College, however, provided rigorous instruction in medicine, much as male students would receive at other medical schools. This instruction required the students to work with chemicals in the pharmaceutical lab, anesthesia, antiseptic, medical tools such as scalpels and forceps.

Although at first glance there may not seem to be numerous differences between the laboratories of the turn of the 20th century and the laboratories of today, items such as protective gear were either not available or deemed important.

Creator: Evans, Alice; Hills, Laura Heath

Item Number: P1766b; P4276; P4360

Physical Collection: ACC-221 and ACC-126

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. A Female Medical Student’s Life: I’ve finished the eye and I’m up on my ear. 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.

Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania--Students

Women medical students

Women--Education (Higher)


Operating rooms


Human dissection

Philadelphia (Pa.)