by Ada E. Sweitzer
It always seemed to me so strange that a woman should wish to be a physician
Not long ago at a party, a man said to me, " It always seemed to me so strange that a woman should wish to be a physician, " (emphasis on the words "woman' and physician.")
I replied, "I suppose it does seem strange to you" (emphasis on "you.") ...."please state your objections."
"O, I believe I did say something about women, but I did not expect to be cornered in this way. Honestly though, doesn't a woman in this profession have to endure many things that are very repulsive to her? I, for my part, do not believe that a woman can graduate from medical college without losing her chief charm, her womanliness. Anyway, it exposes her to a lot of adverse criticism, and judging from the woman physicians that I know, I have come to believe that much of it is just. Lastly, a woman's place is in the home."
That was a long speech for him to make, and although I feel deeply on the subject, waited until he had finished. Then without attempting to answer his last remark, for I believe that myself, if a woman has the right kind of a man, to make the right kind of a home for her, I replied with some spirit, "You have evidently been unfortunate enough to meet the wrong kind of woman physician. Where did you meet women you mention?"
He hesitated and finally admitted that he was not personally acquainted with any women who were recognized by the profession, but that he did not like their independent ways.
I was indignant, "You mean, " I said "that a woman in a physician's office is a woman outside of your preconceived notion of a woman's sphere and you are not event fair minded enough to inquire whether she is not doing a work that no man can possibly do just because he is a man.
There are thousands of women today who on account of the old fashioned traditional womanliness, defer seeking medical aid from a man. To these, what a blessing is the woman physician! To her they may go heart sick and weary, sure of an intelligent sympathy, a sympathy which is some times as potent a restorative as the remedies she administers."
As I ceased speaking a vision came to me of the dawning era, when men and women, sensible and intelligent, will not be ashamed to understand as nearly as possible the ever present mystery of life; who will strive to learn the laws governing the development of the physical body, which after all is only the temple of the spiritual body. I felt that only then will they realize the necessity of keeping the temple sweet and pure, that the soul be not defiled.
I could see that under the existing social conditions only a woman could properly disseminate this knowledge among her fellow women.
I turned from the vision to the young man and continues, "as to a woman's being contaminated by her surroundings, that depends on the woman."
"Some little girls can make mud pies for hours at a time and after their hands are washed, will show no traces of their pastime, whiles others will become dirty and grimy, and covered with must just by looking on."
"The time has already come when a woman's usefulness can not be limited by false conventionalities."
For wherever there is suffering to alleviate, wherever there are broken lives to heal, wherever there are hearts bowed down; there is woman's place as healer and comforter and it is there that her womanliness is her most effective and most divine remedy.
"And now, my friend, if this little preach has failed to convince you, call tomorrow and let me introduce you to some women physicians whom I know."
"I shall be proud to meet them." Was his only reply.
Sweitzer, Ada E. A Woman a Physician. Why not? The Medical Student. Medical College ofIndiana, Indianapolis. November 1903; 2(2):13-14.