The IWD campaign this year is all about #PressForProgress, a movement dedicated to greater visibility and opportunity for women everywhere.
We thought we’d use the day to think back on pioneering women in healthcare. Someone who pushed through enormous barriers for greater access to healthcare and health education, and paved the way for the women who came after them to access these basic rights.
One of my favourite women from history is the American physician Mary Putnam Jacobi. You don’t often hear about her, but in 1876, after campaigning endlessly for top medical schools like John’s Hopkins to accept female medical students with little success, she wrote an essay entitled The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation.
The prevailing belief at the time was that menstruating women had to rest or risk damage to their reproductive organs. As such, it meant that women were discouraged from working, studying and obtaining degrees, and it fed into the belief that women were unable to make any kind of rational decision around period time. So, Jacobi conducted a scientific study of menstruating women to test the theory, and of course debunked it. The story goes that she presented her findings scientifically and rationally, without displaying any emotion, much to the chagrin of the male panel and leaving them no choice but to take her seriously. The paper went on to win the prestigious Boylston Prize from Harvard University, proving once again that women were capable of achieving great things in science when given the opportunity.
Laying the foundation for gender parity
I absolutely love this story. Not only did she disprove a ridiculous period myth, but she proved that women were smart, and capable too. Jacobi continued to smash barriers throughout her career, both in women’s education and in medical care. She created the Association for the Advancement of the Medical Education of Women, and was the first woman admitted into the prestigious New York Academy of Medicine.
Dr. Jacobi worked tirelessly for the advancement of women in medical science. Women like her paved the way for those who came after them. Though we’ve still got a way to go, I think we can be grateful to her for laying the foundations that have led us to this point.
The Sylk Bursary
We’re passionate about women’s health education here at Sylk. That’s why 2p from every Sylk sale goes towards The Sylk Bursary, in association with the UK Menopause Nurse Group. The bursary enables nurses to further their menopause knowledge by attending study days and courses. Find out more here