Maybe it’s a generational thing but I can’t imagine a world without women physicians. But if you take a quick look through history and examine the statistics, it’s actually quite surprising when women physicians truly become common in the United States. Here are some interesting facts about women in medicine:
1847 – Harriet Hunt applies to Harvard Medical School. She is the first women to do so. Her application is rejected.
1849 – Elizabeth Blackwell is the first women to receive a US medical degree. She graduates from Geneva Medical College in New York. Elizabeth and her sister establish the first hospital operated by women less than a decade later.
1860’s – There are only 200 women physicians in the United States.
1897 – Eliza Ann Grier, MD is the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in Georgia. She is an emancipated slave. Slavery had been abolished in 1865, 32 years earlier.
1900 – There are now over 7,000 women physicians in the United States. The Nineteenth Amendment which permits women to vote does not go into effect for another 20 years (1920).
1945 – Harvard Medical School admits women for the first time, nearly 100 years after the first women in the US receives a medical degree.
1970 – A mere 8% of US physicians are women.
1980 – 12% of US physicians are women.
1990 – 17% of US physicians are women.
2002 – Over a quarter (25.2%) of US physicians are women. 49.2% of medical school applicants are women for the 2002-2003 school year.
2012 – Over a third (34.3%) of US physicians are women.
According to these statistics, it wasn’t until the 2000’s that women physicians really became prevalent. In 2012, nearly half of residents and fellows were women so perhaps women will take up about half of the physician workforce in a few years!