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On Display Now: American Women Physicians in World War I


Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center is currently hosting the exhibition "American Women Physicians in World War I," created by the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA). The exhibition, on display in the Eckenhoff Reading Room, tells the story of how women fought for the opportunity to serve as physicians during the war and features the contributions of many individuals. The US Army disallowed women entry into the Medical Corps as doctors, forcing them to take positions as nurses or, eventually, contract surgeons, a position without rank or pay equal to commissioned officers. Many chose to avoid the US Army altogether and volunteered as physicians with the Red Cross, the Women's Oversea Hospitals, the American Women's Hospitals Service, and others.

Mainstream accounts of World War I have overlooked women's participation from the start of the conflict through today, which makes reconstructing the experiences of women contract surgeons and volunteer physicians difficult but important work. Galter Library has created three posters that commemorate graduates of the Northwestern University Women's Medical School who served during World War I. These posters, also on display in the Eckenhoff Reading Room, highlight two physicians: Drs. Adah McMahan and Ruth Tunnicliff, and list the other graduates who, we have been able to confirm, served in the war effort.

Click here to find out more about AMWA's exhibition, and the short documentary that accompanies it.

These displays will be up through November 2020.

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Updated: October 5, 2020