Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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Photographs of a skeleton dressed in a student’s clothing, sitting on a chair in a dormitory room at Woman’s Medical College; Nellie Louise Lawrence (WMCP 1896), Ellen James Patterson (WMCP 1898), and Alice Hatheway Purvis (WMCP 1898) posing for a photograph with a skeleton - the woman in the center is holding a lute; and Laura Heath Hills and her classmates, enjoying a dinner in the boarding room she shared with Grace Schermerhorn.

Why It Matters

Early college students recognized the importance of taking a break from their hard work just as students today recognize. Although the way they spent time together may differ from the way students today meet up for fun, social interaction and having the ability to laugh were still important.

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Analyze this evidence

  • Just like students today, the students in the 1890s did not spend all of their time studying. How are the Woman’s Medical College students in these photographs spending their free time?
  • All of the photos are taken in the women’s boarding rooms. What have they hung on the walls? What else do they have in their rooms? What do these items tell you about the women?