Doctor or Doctress?

Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians

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Photograph of American Women's Hospital Services ambulance and staff, Luzancy, France, circa 1917. The American Women's Hospitals (AWH) developed from the War Service Committee of the Medical Women's National Association (later, American Medical Women's Association) in 1917 to provide, register, and finance American women physicians in order to aid those affected by World War I and provide medical and emergency relief to refugees. Dr. I. Jay Manwaring, Mrs. Sarah O'Brien, motor driver and Dr. Mary MacLachan, House physicians of the American Women's Hospital No. 1 at Luzancy, France.

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“Across Battlefields and into Villages”: The American Women’s Hospitals in World War I France

World War I produced conflict and carnage, the likes of which had never been seen before.  France suffered devastating effects of the war being fought on its soil, including a severe humanitarian crisis resulting from the bombardment of villages near the constantly-moving front lines. The conditions of poor, rural villages already suffering from malnutrition and disease were exacerbated by the war.  The doctors of AWH did their medical work under extremely difficult circumstances: scarcity of equipment, improvised spaces, poor transportation, and constant uncertainty and insecurity because the front line of battle was always moving back and forth throughout the countryside. Dr. M. Louise Hurrell's (director of the AWH hospitals) reports to the AWH describe illness and epidemics compounded by lack of food, fuel and clothing, as well as unsanitary conditions.  However, the work of the AWH and its support networks helped each area recover. The pride of the hospitals was its ambulance drivers and surgeons - all women - who served the 20,000 patients seen over the course of a year.

Transportation was vital to the work of the AWH, not only to receive food and medical supplies, but also to bring new volunteers to the hospital sites.  The ambulances were used by the doctors to travel to villages surrounding those in which the hospital was located and to bring back those in poor health, who did not have the means or the ability to travel.

Creator: American Women's Hospitals

Language: english

Item Number: a144_002

Pages: 2

Size: 10.8x15.1cm

Physical Collection: Records of American Women`s Hospitals 1917-1982, ACC-144

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Cite this source: Title of document, date. The American Women’s Hospitals in World War I France: Across Battlefields and into Villages. 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

MacLachlan, Mary

Manwaring, Ier Jay

O'Brien, Sarah

War--Medical aspects

World War, 1914-1918

Luzancy (France)