Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

AWHS photo of a family in the Appalachian Mountain area circa 1935. AWHS, Rural Services administered healthcare and health education to rural Southern families in their homes during the 1920s and 1930s.

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The American Women’s Hospitals at Home: Public Health in Depression-Era Appalachia

The American Women’s Hospitals (AWH) was founded by women physicians in 1918 to provide medical care to the people of war-torn France during World War I. AWH subsequently established hospitals in other parts of Europe and Western Asia, continuing to provide medical care to devastated populations after wars and conflicts had officially ended.  Appalachia is a rural, mountainous region spanning several states, including parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, West Virginia, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.  AWH concentrated their efforts in Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Kentucky. Even before the Depression, Appalachia was relatively poor, rural area of the country and was geographically isolated with few roads or means of transportation in or out of the area.  The economic crisis of the Great Depression only increased the severity of the region’s existing poverty and lack of quality education and healthcare.

This photo reveals some aspects of the impoverished circumstances of Appalachian residents: the children are not wearing shoes; both children and the woman are wearing old, battered clothing, likely hand-sewn from sacks or other fabric; they are all very thin. Their appearance is in stark contrast to the AWH doctor.

Creator: American Women's Hospitals Service

Language: english

Item Number: a144_195

Pages: 1

Size: 14x9cm

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 at Home: Public Health in Depression-Era Appalachia. 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.

American Women's Hospitals Service

Child welfare

Charities, Medical

Rural health services

Appalachian Region, Southern