Cover: Restoring the Balance: Women Physicians and the Profession of Medicine, 1850–1995, from Harvard University PressCover: Restoring the Balance in PAPERBACK

Restoring the Balance

Women Physicians and the Profession of Medicine, 1850–1995

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Product Details


$47.00 • £37.95 • €42.50

ISBN 9780674005679

Publication Date: 03/16/2001


352 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

6 halftones, 5 tables


A number of books about women physicians are available, but most focus on the lives of women doctors during the 19th and early 20th centuries. More’s book covers these eras, but its real strength lies in its examination of the obstacles women physicians faced in the mid- to late 20th century. More concentrates on the concerns and difficulties these women encountered as they attempted to find a balance between their personal and professional lives. She also surveys the evolution of women’s medical societies and looks at women physicians’ efforts during the world wars. Perhaps most interesting is her analysis of how these women reconciled the conflicts between traditional values and career goals as they began to gain some level of prestige during the baby boom era.—Tina Neville, Library Journal

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

To tell the story of women in medicine in this country over the last century and a half, More focuses on a few physicians to say something in detail about their lives, work, and the obstacles they overcame. Her emphasis on balance between the roles of women in families and in their profession is a useful one and her focus on the Women’s National Association, on women in hospital settings and on the Sheppard Towner Act all make Restoring the Balance stand out from previous books on this subject. Using well chosen examples from the lives of Sarah Dolley, Mary Calderone, and others, More shows how these women responded in different ways to varying personal and social needs. This book has a great deal to say about the process of professionalization of American medicine, from a personal or individual perspective and from an institutional one.—Gert H. Brieger, Johns Hopkins University

This scholarly yet accessible work traces the struggle of women physicians to achieve a balance between personal and professional obligations… It also exposes the barriers encountered by these women, who were often excluded from hospital staffs, specialty training programs, and medical societies… The book is well researched and reverberates with the voices and experiences of remarkable women physicians. The last two chapters are especially relevant to the concerns of women physicians today.—Rebecca J. Kurth

Ellen More practices what she preaches. Just as she writes in this book that the history of women in medicine represents a constant search for balance, between personal, community, and professional interests, More balances her own account between wonderful individual stories of medical women’s lives and a flowing narrative of the ups and downs of their collective professional history over 150 years. There is lots to learn in this highly readable and highly recommended book.—Judith Walzer Leavitt, University of Wisconsin Medical School

Restoring the Balance is an exceedingly important and needed study of the history of women in the American medical profession. What is particularly notable is its focus on broad cultural factors that have impeded the work of women physicians, not merely on explicit barriers of entry to the profession. The book also contains important lessons for those who wish to advance the cause of women in medicine today. This is a major contribution to the history of medicine that should prove enduring.—Kenneth M. Ludmerer, M.D., Washington University

Intelligently conceived and elegantly written, Ellen More’s fresh look at the history of women physicians makes an important contribution to the increasingly vibrant field of gender and health care studies. It will appeal to historians and the general reader alike.—Regina Morantz-Sanchez, University of Michigan

Forget the sentimental claptrap of triumph, tragedy, or the impossibility of ‘having it all’ for women physicians. Ellen More provides us with a nuanced and fascinating chronicle that interweaves the individual life stories of a diverse sample of women doctors with the institution-building and cultural shifts that have shaped the histories of women physicians over the last century. At last, here is a book that brings the history of medicine and women physicians into the contemporary period, exploring the pressures for separatism, assimilation, maternalist medicine, the differences of racialized experiences, and the modern women’s movement in one intriguing, thoughtful, and very readable account.—Susan M. Reverby, Wellesley College

Awards & Accolades

  • 2003 History of Women in Science Prize, History of Science Society
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