Browse Exhibits (6 total)

A Brief History of Women at Harvard Medical School

First Class of Women Admitted to Harvard Medical School, 1945

Harvard Medical School has both a long and a brief history regarding women students and faculty members.

This exhibit explores that complicated history, highlighting the first woman student applicant and Harvard Medical School’s first coeducational class; the first group of women researchers, instructors, leading to the first full professor; the Joint Committee on the Status of Women; and the creation of the Archives for Women in Medicine and the importance of highlighting the achievements of women leaders in medicine.

Grete L. Bibring: The Modern Woman

Conceiving the Pill

In the 1970’s, Dr. Grete L. Bibring created a seminar for Radcliffe College called ‘The Educated Woman’. A small group of students would gather to discuss the issues surrounding educated women and their lives. The concept of the ‘modern woman’ came to portray the dual roles of family and career that women had one point been forced to choose between. Dr. Bibring was a mentor for the emerging modern woman, understanding the demands and rewards of maintaining both a career and family.

Born in Vienna just before the 20th century, Grete L. Bibring would earn the honor of being the first female full clinical professor at Harvard Medical School in 1961. As a part of the “second generation” of Freudian scholars, her achievements include her appointment as Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Beth Israel Hospital in 1955, professional activities in numerous psychiatric organizations, such as the psychoanalytic societies of Vienna, London, and Boston and psychiatric consultant of the Children’s Bureau in Washington D.C. She was highly influential in integrating psychiatric principles into general patient care. Her passion permeated her other roles working with students, residents, physicians, social workers, and nurses across the globe. Dr. Bibring’s work continued well after retirement with a thought provoking seminar at Radcliffe, publication of multiple articles, and her dedication to patient care. This exhibit celebrates her life and her influence on the generations of medical, psychiatric, and social services professions.


Leading by Teaching: Elizabeth D. Hay and Lynne M. Reid


The Archives for Women in Medicine is celebrating the recent opening of two outstanding new collections: The Elizabeth D. Hay Papers, and The Lynne M. Reid Papers. Highlighting the importance of networks, mentors, and communities of support, this exhibit includes selections that reflect Hay and Reid’s roles as teachers, mentors, and champions for women in medicine. The Hay and Reid collections contain a rich range of materials, including correspondence, lectures, research records, teaching materials, writings, and photographs.  Such records document the experiences and contributions of these two influential pioneers.  In the ongoing effort toward gender equity in medicine and science, Hay and Reid were early women leaders who made it a point to teach, encourage, and inspire generations of scientists who followed.

By making these collections available for discovery, access, and interpretation, the Archives for Women in Medicine is connecting scholars with unique evidence of the achievements and struggles overcome by this cohort of women -- evidence that is essential to our understanding of the evolution of medicine. We are preserving and sharing this evidence to ensure that their efforts will continue to inspire future generations.

The documents and images in this exhibit are from various collections of the Archives for Women in Medicine.

Mary Ellen Avery: Highlights from Her Collection


The Mary Ellen Avery Papers are one of the founding collections of the Archives for Women in Medicine. This exhibit shares just a small selection of letters, photographs, diaries, and other items which help to document Avery’s pioneering career and contributions to pediatrics. Avery is known for her 1959 discovery of the cause of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) in premature infants: the lack of lung surfactant, a foamy fluid which creates surface tension and allows the lungs to inflate. This discovery led to the development of a treatment for RDS in newborns. By 2005, this treatment had decreased the number of infant deaths from RDS in the U.S. to 860 annually, down from almost 10,000 a year in 1970.

Avery was one who meticulously documented, often scribbling her personal reflections on the backs of meeting agendas or napkins, or typing up her own accounts of various events just for, in her words: “the historical record.” Over the years she built a rich collection of papers and records that document not only her significant achievements, but also the warmth, humor, and courage that made her an inspiration and a role model to many.

For more information about the collection, view the Finding Aid to the Mary Ellen Avery Papers.

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The Stethoscope Sorority: Stories from the Archives for Women in Medicine


Over the years, women have faced, and continue to face, many struggles in the field of medicine. Despite this ongoing adversity, they have emerged as strong leaders and helped revolutionize the profession. The Archives for Women in Medicine (AWM) at the Countway Library was created in 2000 to capture and preserve the untold history of the many women who have helped change the face of medicine in the United States. This exhibition highlights materials from the AWM that illustrate women’s experiences as mentors, pioneering researchers, healers, and strong voices speaking out for their beliefs. Using their own words, the exhibition presents stories from some of the women of the AWM and the people who have helped contribute to their successes.

As you go through the exhibition, listen to their stories. Consider how the field of medicine has advanced as a result of these women. How have these changes affected your life as a physician, scientist, patient, or future medical professional? What does the future hold for women in medicine?

The documents and images in this exhibit are from various collections of the Archives for Women in Medicine.

Women in Medicine Oral Histories

Women in Medicine Classroom Guide.pdf
The Women in Medicine Oral Histories were an initiative of the Joint Committee on the Status of Women to document the experiences of women professors in the Harvard medical community, in their own words, and to capture data about the history and development of this community.

The Joint Committee on the Status of Women is a standing committee of the Faculty of Medicine at Harvard University. The purpose of the committee is to facilitate the development and contribution of women affiliated with Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine. In addition to the videos, the collection contains transcripts, faculty profiles, and classroom discussion guides scanned from the original guide book. Includes footage of the work environment, scientists, Ph.D. students, research laboratories, hospitals, and the medical school.

In 1984, the video series "Women in Medicine" was designed for use in social studies and science classes and in career counseling centers. Nine videotaped profiles introduce students to distinguished women in academic medicine. There are study questions for each tape as well as discussion questions which build upon the entire series or a combination of tapes. The Guide also includes a glossary of key terms and a bibliography to aid further research.