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Restoring the Balance

Restoring the Balance

Women Physicians and the Profession of Medicine, 1850–1995

Ellen S. More

ISBN 9780674005679

Publication date: 03/16/2001

From about 1850, American women physicians won gradual acceptance from male colleagues and the general public, primarily as caregivers to women and children. By 1920, they represented approximately five percent of the profession. But within a decade, their niche in American medicine—women’s medical schools and medical societies, dispensaries for women and children, women’s hospitals, and settlement house clinics—had declined. The steady increase of women entering medical schools also halted, a trend not reversed until the 1960s. Yet, as women’s traditional niche in the profession disappeared, a vanguard of women doctors slowly opened new paths to professional advancement and public health advocacy.

Drawing on rich archival sources and her own extensive interviews with women physicians, Ellen More shows how the Victorian ideal of balance influenced the practice of healing for women doctors in America over the past 150 years. She argues that the history of women practitioners throughout the twentieth century fulfills the expectations constructed within the Victorian culture of professionalism. Restoring the Balance demonstrates that women doctors—collectively and individually—sought to balance the distinctive interests and culture of women against the claims of disinterestedness, scientific objectivity, and specialization of modern medical professionalism. That goal, More writes, reaffirmed by each generation, lies at the heart of her central question: what does it mean to be a woman physician?


  • In her probing and meticulous study, Ellen S. More weaves profiles of unsung female doctors into a history that ranges from the 'maternalist' health care initiatives that grew out of the pioneering efforts of Victorian women doctors such as Sarah Adamson Dolley (1829-1909) to the impact of the civil rights and women's movement on the medical profession.

    —Publishers Weekly


  • 2003, Winner of the History of Women in Science Prize


  • Ellen S. More is Head of the Office of Medical History and Archives at Lamar Soutter Library and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press