Doctor or Doctress?

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Sarah Hibbard Sarah Hibbard
Lecture notes of Sarah Hibbbard, also includes a possible thesis draft. Beginning on page 31, Hibbard references the Jeering Episode of 1869, when a small group of students from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania went to the Pennsylvania Hospital amphitheater to attend a clinical lecture. Their attendance drew a strong response from the hundreds of male students in attendance, including jeering, and created a controversial debate about women's presence in clinical lectures. The Jeering Episode and ensuing debate were widely covered in regional newspapers.

Why It Matters

Sarah Hibbard, an 1870 graduate of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP), was one of the women medical students who attended a clinical lecture at Pennsylvania Hospital in November 1869 and was met with harassment and “jeering” by the hundreds of male medical students also in attendance. She writes about how the incident, and the public response to it, had a lasting, and perhaps unintended effect -- it made the women even more determined to pursue their studies, and caused the public to be sympathetic and supportive of the women's right to do so.

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  • What did Hibbard mean when she wrote "their loss was our gain"?
  • How would you characterize Hibbard's feelings towards the harassing students?

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Without going into the details of the past more than to gather up some facts upon the subject from the memorable years of 1869 and 70, I will say that the conduct of the male medical students of which so much has been said through the press, and their most unmanly deportment during the clinics of those winters, needs no comment further than to say that their “loss was our gain.” For certainly they did lose, and certainly we did gain, as the facts will show. But as to the manner of their abuse, I will not give the particulars, for the same reason that a San Francisco editor declined to publish the particulars of three murders, as “there was nothing original about the modes of death.” But if these poor fellows had sought to do us a life-long favor, they could not have done it more effectively than they did in their conduct towards us during those sessions. I say us, because I too, with others, have the pleasure of knowing that for two winters I sat an earnest listener to those clinic lectures: one in the old amphitheater at Blockley Alms House, and the other at the amphitheater of Pennsylvania Hospital, amid the groans and hisses of as ungentlemanly a set of fellows as one would care to meet, after paying just as much for our tickets of admission as they. And yet we bore all this for what? Simply that we might be the better fitted to minister at the bedside of our mothers, sisters, and friends throughout the land.