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Longshore, Hannah E. (1819–1901)

Longshore, Hannah E. (1819–1901)

American physician. Born Hannah Myers on May 30, 1819, in Sandy Spring, Maryland; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 18, 1901; eldest child of five daughters and two sons of Samuel Myers (a teacher) and Paulina (Iden) Myers; attended Quaker schools in Washington, D.C., until the age of 13 or 14; attended New Lisbon Academy, New Lisbon, Ohio; awarded M.D. from the Female (later Woman's) Medical College of Pennsylvania, December 31, 1851; married Thomas Ellwood Longshore (a teacher), on March 26, 1841; children: son, Channing Longshore (b. 1842); daughter, Lucretia Longshore (b. 1845).

The eldest of seven children of a liberal Quaker family, Hannah Myers was born in 1819 in Sandy Spring, Maryland, but was raised and educated in Washington, D.C., and, from 1833, in Columbiana County, Ohio. Her early interest in academics, especially science, was encouraged by her father and at the Lisbon Academy, where she adopted a middle initial "E" in her name to distinguish herself from a classmate with the same name. Inspired by the family physician, whose prescriptions she administered to the family, Hannah wanted desperately to be a doctor and hoped to go on to study medicine at Oberlin College, but the family simply lacked the money to send her.

In March 1841, at age 22, Hannah married Thomas Ellwood Longshore, a philosopher of religion who was a teacher at Lisbon Academy. An enlightened man, Thomas was also a reformer who supported education and women's rights. His later writings would include works on peace, temperance, labor, and woman suffrage. For the next four years, the couple lived with Hannah's family while Thomas continued to teach and Hannah tended to their two children, Channing (b. 1842) and Lucretia (b. 1845). In 1845, after losing his job because of his anti-slavery views, Thomas moved his family to his hometown of Attleboro, Pennsylvania. Here, Hannah finally had an opportunity to study medicine, apprenticing under Thomas' brother Joseph Skelton Longshore, who was a practitioner of Eclectic medicine. Hannah's enthusiasm and ability may have inspired Joseph to assist in the establishment of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, which opened its doors in 1850. A member of the college's first class, Longshore was one of eight classmates (including her sister-in-law Anna Longshore and Ann Preston , future dean of the college) who completed the first four-month session in 1851. During the second session, running from September to December 1851, Longshore both studied and served as a demonstrator, thus qualifying as the first woman faculty member of an American medical school. After completing a thesis on the treatment of neuralgia by water, she was awarded an M.D. degree on December 31, 1851. The graduation exercises were marked by a strong police presence, necessary to guard against the threat of violence from male medical students.

In the climate of prejudice against female physicians at the time, Longshore had difficulty building a private practice. She continued to teach, demonstrating anatomy at the New England Female Medical College in Boston, at the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, and at the Penn Medical University. Her practice was helped immensely by a series of public lectures she initiated in the spring of 1852, a project that required her to overcome her intense shyness. The first, an address on medical education for women, supported by Lucretia Mott as well as by prominent Quakers in the area, proved such a success that she followed up with a series on physiology and hygiene. Although Longshore's frank discussions of sexual matters shocked conservatives, they also drew patients into her practice, which within three years was so large that she was forced to give up her teaching and lecturing. Eventually, she was caring for 300 families in the area, a record that surpassed any of her colleagues, male or female. Her reputation was such that some of her male colleagues, while not openly supporting her, sent their own wives and daughters to her for treatment. Longshore continued to practice for 40 years, retiring in 1892. She died of uremia in 1901 and was buried in Philadelphia's Fair Hill Cemetery. Her remains and those of her husband were later removed to Chelten Hills Cemetery. Although Hannah Longshore may have inspired much hostility against women physicians in Philadelphia during the 1850s, she is also credited with the acceptance of women into the profession later in the century.

sources:

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.

Parton, James, ed. Eminent Women of the Age. Hartford, CT: S.M. Betts, 1872.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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