Skip to main content

Frantz, Virginia Kneeland (1896–1967)

Frantz, Virginia Kneeland (1896–1967)

American physician, surgeon, and researcher . Born Virginia Kneeland in New York City in 1896; died in 1967; daughter of Yale and Anna Isley Ball Kneeland; attended Brearley School for girls, New York City; graduated from Bryn Mawr College; medical degree from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, 1922; married Angus MacDonald Frantz (a physician), in 1920 (divorced); children: Virginia Frantz (b. 1924); Angus Frantz, Jr. (b. 1927); Andrew Frantz (b. 1930).

A pioneering woman in the field of medicine, Virginia Kneeland Frantz grew up in an upper-class Manhattan family and attended the exclusive Brearley School for girls in New York City. She graduated at the head of her class at Bryn Mawr and was one of only five women in a class of 74 at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1922, already married to her classmate Angus Frantz (they were later divorced), she became the first woman to undertake a surgical internship at the Columbia-affiliated Presbyterian Hospital. In 1924, along with giving birth to her first child, she was appointed an assistant surgeon and a member of the Columbia faculty. Specializing in surgical pathology, she became one of the first women to test the prevailing theory, among male doctors, that women physicians were unable to withstand the rigors of surgery.

Frantz also excelled in research, gaining national renown for her work on pancreatic tumors. She conducted some of the earliest studies on breast disease, including chronic cystic disease and cancer. In 1940, she was one of the first to demonstrate that radioactive iodine was effective in treating thyroid cancer, and during World War II she discovered that oxidized cellulose used on wounds controlled bleeding and was absorbed into the body. For this discovery, she received the Army-Navy Certificate of Appreciation for Civilian Service (1948).

Frantz, who became a full professor at Columbia in 1951, was also a highly effective and popular teacher. She was equally well-respected among her peers, twice serving as president of the New York Pathological Society (1949 and 1950), and once as the first woman president of the American Thyroid Association (1961). Throughout her career, she disliked recognition that focused on her gender rather than her contributions. "I'm not a medical oddity," she would say. Dr. Frantz retired from Columbia in 1962 and died of cancer in 1967, age 65.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Frantz, Virginia Kneeland (1896–1967)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . 25 Apr. 2019 <>.

"Frantz, Virginia Kneeland (1896–1967)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . (April 25, 2019).

"Frantz, Virginia Kneeland (1896–1967)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 25, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.