Women in White Coats
How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine
by Olivia Campbell
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Pub Date 20 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 10 Oct 2022
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
'Fascinating, absorbing and inspiring' - Nina Sankovitch, bestselling author of American Rebels
'Engrossing' - Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band
'Lovingly rendered, joyfully expressed history of extraordinary medical women' - Rachel Vorona Cote, author of Too Much
For fans of Hidden Figures and Radium Girls comes the remarkable story of three Victorian women who broke down barriers in the medical field to become the first women doctors, revolutionising the way women receive health care.
In the early 1800s, women were dying in large numbers from treatable diseases because they avoided receiving medical care. Examinations performed by male doctors were often demeaning and even painful. In addition, women faced stigma from illness--a diagnosis could greatly limit their ability to find husbands, jobs or be received in polite society.
Motivated by personal loss and frustration over inadequate medical care, Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Sophia Jex-Blake fought for a woman's place in the male-dominated medical field. For the first time ever, Women in White Coats tells the complete history of these three pioneering women who, despite countless obstacles, earned medical degrees and paved the way for other women to do the same. Though very different in personality and circumstance, together these women built women-run hospitals and teaching colleges - creating for the first time medical care for women by women.
With gripping storytelling based on extensive research and access to archival documents, Women in White Coats tells the courageous history these women made by becoming doctors, detailing the boundaries they broke of gender and science to reshape how we receive medical care today.
'A fascinating, absorbing, and inspiring account of three women who set out to become doctors at a time when female doctors were desperately needed but hard to find. By overcoming obstacles of professional discrimination, personal heartaches, and societal suspicions, these women realized their dreams and changed the world' - Nina Sankovitch, bestselling author of American Rebels
'Olivia Campbell's Women in White Coats is a lovingly rendered, joyfully expressed history of extraordinary medical women. With a storyteller's flair, Campbell chronicles their struggles, setbacks, and stridently hard-won triumphs across decades and continents. I emerged from the book both humbled and inspired' - Rachel Vorona Cote, author of Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today
'An engrossing portrait of a transformative moment in Victorian medicine, when women doctors demanded the right to heal and be healed. Their battle was collective, and their hard-won triumph is ours. Women in White Coats is a timely reminder of just how many hands it takes to move mountains' - Claire L. Evans, author of Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet
Average rating from 17 members
A really good and informative incite into the struggles these women have faced in their journey to become doctors. The bias and trials endured and the determination shown gives encouragement to women of today.
Women in White Coats brings home both how much pioneer women also needed to be the more privileged kinds of women (for example, having a wealthy family and not needing to work) and at least one parent or other family member on their side, but also how these women weren't entirely alone. The power of a group of women supporting in each other along individual lonely roads should not be underestimated, but neither should the obstacles they faced and therefore how poor or non-white or disabled women, for example, would have had no chance against the institutional and individual pressure and discrimination on all sides.
I loved that Women in White Coats delved into the stories of a small number of women, which revealed how much influence individual circumstance and luck have when the odds (and society) are against you.
I really enjoyed this biography of three pioneering female doctors. I'd heard of the Edinburgh Seven before, but this easy-to-read, in-depth history gave me a much greater insight into the fight for women to be recognised as medical practitioners in the 1800s.
I've read a few women in medicine books recently which take a much wider, thematic approach to the subject, so it was really nice to focus in on a few individuals for a change. It was interesting to see how the personalities of these three women had almost as much impact as their political beliefs, and while Campbell is a little starry-eyed about her subjects, she doesn't omit their flaws.
Informative, personable and engaging, Women in White Coats is a book I'd recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about feminist pioneers.
'Women in White Coats' is a well-researched book that describes the struggles the first women in both America and the United Kingdom went through in order to gain their professional medical accreditation. Olivia Campbell also provides historical context throughout so the reader gains a better understanding of why so many barriers waylaid their journey.
Given that women throughout history have often been the nurturers and caregivers for both their families and communities, it seems ludicrous that they were ousted from this role through the professionalisation of medical care. Worse, Campbell points out that, 'medicine for men of the time [19th Century], was the profession you went into after showing no particular aptitude for anything else'. To that end, 'medical students had a reputation for being rather wild'. No wonder men were so keen to keep the doors to medical schools closed to women! These pioneering women of medicine showed a dedication not only to learning their craft over a number of years but also as activists in the face of adversity.
Olivia Campbell's book takes us through the journey of these key women; their successes, struggles, and tidbits of their personal lives. Campbell not only concludes how fortunate women are to have benefited from their campaigning, but how humanity has benefited from the numerous discoveries women within the medical profession have made. While the overall story is both illuminating and inspiring, the pace at times is bogged down with unnecessary detail.
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