Hurd-Mead, Kate C(ampbell)

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HURD-MEAD, Kate C(ampbell)

Born 6 April 1867, Danville, Quebec, Canada; died 1 January 1941, Haddam, Connecticut

Also wrote under: Kate C. Mead, Kate C. H. Mead

Daughter of Edward Payson and Sarah Campbell Hurd; married William E. Mead, 1893

Born in Canada, Kate C. Hurd-Mead moved with her family to Newburyport, Massachusetts, where she graduated from high school in 1883. She received her M.D. from Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1888 and interned the next year at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston. In 1889-90, she studied in Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, and London.

In 1890, Hurd-Mead became medical director of the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and founded the Evening Dispensary for Working Women and Girls of Baltimore City in 1891. After her marriage to William E. Mead, a professor of early English at Wesleyan University, she moved to Middletown, Connecticut, where she set up practice. In 1895, Hurd-Mead was an incorporator of Middlesex County Hospital, where she served as a consulting gynecologist from 1907 to 1925.

Hurd-Mead was active in many women's medical organizations and was president of the Medical Women's National Association (MWNA) from 1922-24. In 1925, Hurd-Mead gave up practice to devote herself to full-time research and writing on the history of women in medicine. She traveled extensively in Europe, Asia, and Africa, gathering information about women in medicine.

Medical Women of America (1933), Hurd-Mead's first book, was dedicated to the MWNA and was published only after the press received 200 advance subscriptions. The book was oversubscribed—not because it had a wide audience but because many readers ordered more than one copy. Hurd-Mead records the history of medical women in America from the early midwives who practiced in the colonies to the women physicians who served in various capacities during World War I.

Hurd-Mead traces the careers of the first American women medical students and physicians, relating the achievements of these women in founding dispensaries, hospitals, and medical schools. She shows that women physicians did well as private practitioners, as teachers and professors—when given a chance, as researchers, and even as surgeons. Hurd-Mead insists that medical women fall short of men only in writing about their achievements. As a result, the world does not realize the extent of women physicians' abilities and accomplishments. Hurd-Mead's book is an attempt to remedy that situation.

A History of Women in Medicine from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century (1938) is Hurd-Mead's magnum opus. The task that Hurd-Mead set for herself was great: to write the most complete history of women in medicine possible. Hurd-Mead spent two years doing research at the British Museum library and several more years consulting original manuscripts in many parts of the world. The result is an impressive compilation of facts presenting the story of women in medicine from 4000 B.C. in Egypt through the end of the 18th century in Europe. Volume II, still unpublished at Hurd-Mead's death, was to have continued the story of women in medicine through the 20th century.

This volume demonstrates convincingly that restrictions against women in medicine are relatively recent—a product of the Christian era and the founding of universities in the Middle Ages. From ancient times until about the 13th century, women were active in all aspects of medical care, surgery as well as midwifery. The book is extremely detailed; in fact, it is tedious to read.

Hurd-Mead's accomplishment in discovering and preserving facts about women in medicine in many countries throughout many centuries is extraordinary. She has restored to medical women their proper heritage.

O THER W ORKS : The papers of Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead, including the unpublished manuscript of Volume II of her History of Women in Medicine, are at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College.


Reference works:

NAW (article by G. Miller).

Other references:

Bulletin of the History of Medicine (July 1941). Journal of the American Medical Women's Association (April 1956). Nation (28 May 1938). NYT (15 May 1938). Women in Medicine (April 1941). YR (Summer 1938).


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Hurd-Mead, Kate C(ampbell)

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