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1921 - 1947


Louisa Cabot Richardson (Edsall) becomes secretary to John Edsall, MD, Dean of the Medical School.


Annie Stone Minot, the first woman to enter the Division of Medical Sciences, is awarded the Ph.D. in Physiology.


Discovery of penicillin.


Olive Watkins Smith, receives Ph.D. from DMS in Biological Chemistry. In 1947, she is appointed Director of the Fearing Research Laboratories at the Free Hospital for Women.


Wall Street Crash precipitates the great depression.


Frederick and Irene Joliet-Curie win Nobel Prize in chemistry for the creation of artificially radioactive elements.


Mrs. K.B. Wilson is Harvard Medical Alumni Association Executive Secretary, 1936-1950. Assistant Editor, Harvard Medical Alumni Bulletin, 1950-53.


Dorothea M. Moore, first instructor in Pediatrics. (She died in 1995 at the age of 102.)


US enters WWII, war ends in 1945.


Priscilla Morris Hubbard, Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Medicine for Financial Affairs. (1942-77)


Dr. Joseph C. Aub writes to Dean Sidney Burwell urging the School and War Committee to consider admitting women to HMS:

"Some time ago I suggested to you and to the War Committee that it would be wise to admit women to the Harvard Medical School in this emergency. We discussed this at the War Committee meeting and I bring it to your attention again for one reason. If this proves to be a long war we will have increasing need for such graduates."

1943, January 8

A special meeting of the Faculty of Medicine is held. After discussion and a show of hands, it "appeared there were very definitely more favoring the possible admission of women than those who considered the move unwise." It is voted that a committee be appointed by the Dean to report on the admission of women to HMS. Committee members are Doctors Oliver Cope, Chester Jones, Charles Lund, Robert Morison and S. Burt Wolbach. Dr. Wolbach gives insight into how volatile these discussions are likely to be when, in several fact-finding letters, he introduces himself as "the unfortunate chairman of the committee appointed to consider the advisability of admitting women to the Harvard Medical School."

1943, March 17

A letter from John T. Williams, Assistant Professor of Gynecology, HMS, to Dean Burwell, states one argument against admission

"While I am willing to agree that there are some very able women in medicine, the pro-feminists are apt to overlook the fundamental biological law that the primary function of woman is to bear and raise children, and the first social duty of woman is to develop and perpetuate the home." John T. Williams, MD

1943, April 2

After "scenes of disorder and confusion at the Faculty meetings," the faculty votes 68 to 12 to recommend to the governing bodies of the University that women be admitted to HMS, not only as an immediate, but also as a permanent policy, and that the proportion of women to men admitted should be settled by the Committee on Admissions solely on the basis of the quality of the applicants.

1943, June 21

At a meeting of the Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College in Cambridge, it is voted "That this board is unwilling at the present time to make the proposed change in regard to the admissibility of women to the Medical School.

"It is very difficult to give clear reasons for the policy of excluding women from the medical degree. There have been several discussions recently on the point and it appears that the present arrangements are not so much the result of the decision to exclude as it is a failure to discover crucial reasons for changing from what is, after all, a very old policy." - 1944 letter from Robert Morison, MD

1944, April 18

The increasing applicant shortage causes the Administrative Board to vote to request the faculty and corporation to reconsider the admission of women.

1944, May 22

The faculty reaffirms the decision to admit women by a vote of 56-3.

1944, June 5

The governing board of Harvard approves the policy of admission to Harvard Medical School. "The acceptance to be decided by the Committee on Admission solely on the basis of the quality of the applicants."

1945, September

Women enter Harvard Medical School for the first time on an equal basis with men. HMS class of 1949 includes Dora Benedict, Martha Kern Caires, Raquel Eidelman, Shirley Gallup, Marcia Gordon, Marjorie Kirk, Doris Rubin, Edith Stone, Edith Schwartz, Jo Ann Tanner, Ladislas Wojcik.


Marian Wilkins Ropes, first female assistant professor appointed in a clinical department (medicine); appointed instructor in medicine, (1943).

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