Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

A photograph of Dr. Mary Riggs Noble’s female patients wearing burqas [an enveloping outer garment worn by women who practice purdah to cover their bodies when in public] in Ludhiana, North India.

Get the story...

“Why I Want to Go to Arabia”: Early Medical Missionaries in the Middle East

Mary Riggs Noble graduated from Woman’s Medical College in 1901. She arrived in 1903 as a medical missionary in India, but unlike Swain, Degenring, and Allison – who were in South India – she worked in the Christian Women’s Medical College in Punjab, Ludhiana (which was in North India).  Dr. Noble was also a professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the North India Medical Training School for Christian Girls.  She came back to the United States in 1913, lecturing on social hygiene during World War I and later serving as the Chief of the Division of Child Hygiene in the Department of Health of Pennsylvania.

Women who practiced purdah [the practice of concealing women and segregating them from men] were not allowed to have male doctors examine them, and had to remain covered from head to toe when out in public.

Language: english

Item Number: p0755g

Pages: 9

Size: 12.7X10.2

Physical Collection: Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania: Photograph Collection. 1850-present. (ACC-AHC1), ACC-AHC1

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. Early Medical Missionaries in the Middle East: Why I Want to Go to Arabia. 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.

Missionaries, Medical--India


India -- Social life and customs.

" Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania -- Alumni and alumnae "

Ludhiana (India)