The Story of Dr. Doris Bartuska: Sexism in Medicine during the 1950s to 1980s

 Digital history, From the collections  Comments Off on The Story of Dr. Doris Bartuska: Sexism in Medicine during the 1950s to 1980s
Aug 082017
 

-By Sabrina Kistler, Intern

Doris Bartuska, MD circa 1987.

As the granddaughter to a strong and influential woman physician, I never fully realized the fight women physicians underwent, and still face today, to bring society to a place of acceptance and equality for women in medicine. My grandmother, Dr. Doris Bartuska, worked throughout her career in endocrinology to best serve her patients, students, and ambitions, while dealing with sexism during the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. As a woman born is a small town, Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, she graduated with her medical degree from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1954 where she subsequently completed her internship and residency. She joined the WMC faculty in 1958 where she served as an Associate Dean for Curriculum, President of the Medical Staff, member of the Board of Directors, and President of the Alumni Association. In addition, Dr. Bartuska was the Director of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism while also serving as the Director of the Endocrine Fellowship Training Program. Dr. Bartuska also believed in the importance of organized medicine, as shown by her roles as President of the American Medical Women’s Association, Delegate to the American Medical Association, President of the Philadelphia Medical Society, and many more. Throughout her career as a physician, teacher, and leader, she has helped pave the way for female physicians in the world today through her struggles against sexism in the medical community.

Doris Bartuska, MD during rounds circa 1983.

While medicine has since made long strides in accepting women into its community, that wasn’t the case 50 years ago. During her medical school interviews, Dr. Bartuska was asked questions such as “do you plan on getting married?” and “are you going to have children?” questions not remotely related to one’s qualifications to become a doctor. While these questions may have seemed harmless, their answers could have drastic impact on whether you would be accepted or denied into their school. Even when she attended Woman’s Med, an all female medical school, Dr. Bartuska still noticed the discrimination of women from pregnant medical students being picked on to female faculty members receiving lower wages and lacking support from male faculty chairs. Dr. Bartuska faced additional adversity during her fellowship at Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia, an all male medical school at the time, where she was called mommy Bartuska by her male peers. Eventually through her skill with consultations, she was able prove her worth and loose the nickname, but the lack of respect and acceptance she faced at the beginning would never be forgotten.

Doris Bartuska, MD receiving the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching circa 1974

Even throughout her professional career in organized medicine, Dr. Bartuska underwent many setbacks due to her gender. During her campaign for President of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, she was the target of a smear campaign due to the fact that she was a women. Her fellow male colleagues would call saying they heard negative things about her, most likely of a sexual nature, eventually causing her to drop out of the race. While this attack could have been based on other factors besides her gender, if she had been elected she would have been the first female president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, suggesting her gender was at least partly the cause for this attack. Dr. Bartuska also frequently found her name being presumptuously changed to Boris Bartuska, a male name, showing that women were still not traditionally considered to be physicians even in the 70s. Whether through mail or the introduction for her American Medical Association speech, this male name followed her throughout her career. While announcing her has Boris Bartuska during her AMA delegation speech may have been surprising and reflective of the adversity she still had yet to face, it worked out in her favor and eventually got her elected as a delegate to the AMA.  Through her time with the AMA, she had worked with her fellow female delegates to increase the number of full time female delegates and to establish and grow the original Women’s Caucus, now the Women Physicians Section. 

While a smart and capable physician, Dr. Bartuska faced a lot of adversity throughout her life as a doctor. During her time in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, she experienced sexism towards women in both the professional and medical community. Although her experiences may not have been as severe as others that came before her, it is evident that women still faced many struggles only a short time ago. It is clear there is still work to be done for having women fully represented and equalized in the medical and professional world but it is through women like my grandmother that have lead us closer to the finish line for equality.

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Dr. Doris Bartuska’s archive collection can be found at The Legacy Center at Drexel College of Medicine’s Queen Lane Campus. Please use the following links for more information on her collection and transcripts for her two oral histories completed in 1977 and 2003.

Doris Bartuska Papers Finding Aid

Interview with Doris Bartuska, M.D., April 4 & 5, 1977

Oral History Interview with Doris Bartuska, M.D., May 15, 2003

If you would like to research any of these topics or items, please contact archives@drexelmed.edu

“Modern Miracle Women: Dr. Catharine Macfarlane a Leader in the Fight Against Cancer

 From the collections  Comments Off on “Modern Miracle Women: Dr. Catharine Macfarlane a Leader in the Fight Against Cancer
Apr 182017
 

– Exhibit by guest blogger, intern Jessica Walker

All materials from the Catharine Macfarlane Collection, unless noted in gallery at bottom

Although routine pelvic and breast exams are standard now, that hasn’t always been the case.  In the early 20th century, doctors commonly thought that healthy women wouldn’t submit themselves to periodic examination without cause.  Dr. Catherine Macfarlane, however, thought that the modern American woman would, and she was going to prove it.  In 1938 she received a grant from the American Medical Association to study periodic examinations to detect early appearances of carcinoma.  The study lasted for 15 years.  Dr. Macfarlane made a lasting impact on early cancer screening and prevention.  Pelvic and breast exams are now a routine part of female physical health.  Through the research clinic operated by Dr. Macfarlane, it was proved that early, routine examinations lead to early detection, and therefore treatment, of many types of cancers specific to women.

 

In July 1937 Catharine Macfarlane attended the Medical Women’s International Association Fourth Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. There she participated in a discussion on the screening and prevention of pelvic cancer. She lamented that many of the doctors participating found it unlikely that women in their countries would not submit to preventative screenings. American women, she thought, would, and she set out to prove it by opening the first cancer prevention clinic in Pennsylvania, one of the first in the country.

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Dr. Macfarlane was often praised as one of the forerunners in the fight against cancer.  The Cancer Control Research Clinic operated by herself, Dr. Margaret Sturgis and Dr. Faith Fetterman began in 1938 and involved a study of over 1,300 women.  By the time Dr. Macfarlane closed the research clinic, over 200 such centers existed around the country.

 

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Throughout the study, Doctors Macfarlane, Sturgis and Fetterman published several articles on their findings from the clinic.  This was one of the first articles, published in the Medical Women’s Journal in 1942.

 

 

Doctors Catharine Macfarlane and Margaret Sturgis at the Cancer Control Research Clinic, circa 1959

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to doing the work of research on the positive effects of early screenings and writing papers, Dr. Macfarlane also gave talks on the results of the cancer prevention clinic.

 

 

 

 

 

Doctor Macfarlane at an exhibit on cancer, circa 1949

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite what the doctors at the MWIA meeting thought, women in American were willing and eager to participate in preventative screenings.  The experiment was a resounding success.  It drew the attention of not only medical professionals, but laypeople as well.  The results of the prevention clinic were reported on by newspapers and magazines from around the country.

 

 

from the Cancer Bulletin, circa 1951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though her initial focus was on pelvic exams, Dr. Macfarlane expanded the focus of the research clinic in the 1950s to include a study of breast exams and self-examination performed by the women themselves.  She found that women were able to detect abnormalities just as soon as a doctor could.

 

Exhibit Gallery:

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On the Evolution of Meeting Minutes: Formality and Degrees of Richness

 From the collections  Comments Off on On the Evolution of Meeting Minutes: Formality and Degrees of Richness
Jan 192017
 

-by guest blogger, intern Jessica Walker

Though to some meeting minutes may seem routine, and perhaps even mundane, that is precisely why they are so fascinating.  Minutes are found within most organized groups, allowing for a common format to compare across time, distance, and even topic.

The Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia was founded in 1868 as an educational organization for those who were interested in “the diseases and problems particular to women.”[1]  Of particular interest within this collection is the minutes of the Society, which contain a range of detailed descriptions of meetings as well as parliamentary procedure followed by the organization.  As all things do over time, the Society evolved, and the changes in the structure and leadership of meetings are reflected within the meeting minutes of the Society.

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Bound volumes of meeting minutes

Physically and intellectually, the meeting minutes and documents undergo a significant transition from the founding of the Society to present.  The early minutes, ranging from 1879 to 1923, were hand written in bound (unpublished) volumes.  They contain detailed dialogues, recording a paraphrase of who said what and on what topic.  Dialogues and discourses taking place during the meetings included topics such as a woman who gave birth to five children in one year around 1880 or a case where the umbilical cord was wrapped around the neck of an infant and the results of such.

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Minutes from a meeting dated December 1879

From the minutes, we can tell that each meeting dedicated significant time to case studies, autopsy specimens, and discussion, which reveal fascinating insights into the minds of medical professionals of the day.  It is because the minutes are so detailed that we are better able to interpret what a doctor may have meant when they used a particular phrase, or why a certain topic may have come up.  The observations provided by these minutes allow for valuable examination of changing medical thought, interests, and priorities up to the 1920s.

The minutes from the 1920s to 2009 thoroughly cover what happened during the meetings, but do not contain the depth of discussion as the early minute books.  Later meeting papers offer more formal, parliamentary procedure style minutes, as many meeting records seem to do.  Although these types of minutes are still extremely useful in tracking what organizations were talking about at any given point in time, the uniqueness of an organization seems to be lost when parliamentary style minutes take over.  Per usual, the meeting was opened with the reading of previous meeting minutes, which then flowed into the “scientific program” portion of the meeting, followed by “private business” (consisting of reports on membership and committees), and closed with new and/or unfinished business.

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122 years later, meeting minutes from May 2001

Of particular interest in this portion of the meeting minutes is the detailed topics covered during these scientific programs.  Speakers presented papers on topics such as laparoscopic surgery or pregnancy following the amputation of the cervix, as well as hosting events where several speakers discussed broader topics, such as sexual education.  As interesting as the topics are, often what we learn from the minutes is that they happened, but not what the response was.  Fortunately, the Obstetrical Society did record some of these scientific sessions, and some of the recordings are preserved at the Legacy Center Archives.

From founding to present, the meeting minutes of the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia have had some aspect of parliamentary procedure woven into the meetings.  However, it is when procedure begins to take precedence over content that the individual voices of an organization can become muffled in the meeting minutes.  Though the minutes of the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia vary in depth and detail over time, they allow for a comprehensive look into the functioning of a medical society.  Minutes describe what is going on in an organization at any given time in varying degrees of detail, and often reflect the changing nature, order, and leadership of an organization.  This particular society is an excellent example.

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[1] “Constitution and bylaws.” (1998) Box 1, Folder 5, The Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia records, 1868-2015, Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center Archives.

 Posted by on January 19, 2017

“We called them our boys”: Primary Sources on WWI Caregiving

 Education and outreach, From the collections  Comments Off on “We called them our boys”: Primary Sources on WWI Caregiving
Nov 292016
 

The upcoming centennial of America’s entry into World War I  – April 6, 2017 – is yet another reminder that the Legacy Center’s collections on women in medicine document the broader themes in American history as seen through the eyes of women.

Last fall I participated in a colloquium at the University of Edinburgh titled The Hidden History of Caregiving in World War I, which took place during what is known in the UK as “Remembrance Week” and includes the annual commemoration of the Armistice on November 11. I might have chosen to talk about some of the lesser known stories of the American Women’s Hospitals (AWH), an organization born in reaction to World War I, and whose large and significant collection is here at the Legacy Center. There is a great deal of mining to do in that collection, revealing more about the AWH’s efforts to serve the wartime refugee population “over there” and to serve equally with male physicians – and other stories.

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Nurse Diana Lewis, circa 1917.

But a single photo album from another source, acquired in recent years, was calling out to me. It holds a rich collection of photographs and a few items of ephemera. The album belonged to a nurse, Diana Lewis, who graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania’s Nurse’s Training School in 1912. She served with the American Expeditionary Forces as a Base Hospital nurse in France. Along with the uniform jacket worn by its owner, the album was displayed in a university-wide “Highlights of the Collections” exhibition. The pages were scanned to document its original state and for easy sharing. But I still had not explored it fully and hoped there might be stories waiting to be told there, so I took a closer look.

Scattered throughout the album are three photographs of temporary grave sites – and I wanted to know why these images had been taken and preserved there.

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One of the three gravesite photos in the Lewis album: Lt. Jefferson Healy was wounded at Chateau de Thierry and died three weeks later at Base Hospital 34.

Simultaneously, as I was poking around among the Center’s World War I material, I began thinking about the very few American women physicians who served as such in Europe. Fifty-six women physicians served in the American military, but were not permitted to serve as commissioned officers like their male counterparts. Instead, they were non-commissioned contract surgeons, and only eleven served at the front. Our collections are extremely thin on these women, but serendipitously, I stumbled upon an ebay auction that resulted in the acquisition of letters and some other materials by and to Dr. Elizabeth Hocker, one of the eleven, written during her tour of duty. There are only sixteen letters, but they cover a great deal – including death, dying, and what eventually became my project topic, supported by the photos in the Lewis album: emotional surrogacy for American soldiers in WWI.

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Hocker correspondence: The grateful letter at the top is from the mother of Pvt. Paul Farnum to Dr. Hocker, who had sent Mrs. Farnum flowers from his gravesite.

The album and the letters inspired my exploration of end-of-life care during the war. The requirements of so many and with so few to serve, coupled with the concerns of distant families, created a new level of emphasis on emotional and logistical support. With an ocean between “our boys” and home, medical personnel began unexpectedly playing a significant role as surrogate family members and communicators. This type of caregiving was expanded for Americans because of distance – and because of an important related factor: Americans’ beliefs and rituals surrounding death and the ways in which those ideas, centering on “the good death”, had been affected by the American Civil War about fifty years earlier. The socially and politically charged history of care for the dying and dead in that conflict had a significant impact on the work of American caregivers in the first world war.

It was not easy to stay focused as I perused the photo album and correspondence collection. The images and letters document a wide variety of subjects, some more fully than others, including transportation, base hospital facilities, care of the wounded, camaraderie, attitudes toward “the Hun” and “our boys”, danger levels, wartime medicine, trenches, military exercises, holidays, French soldiers and civilians, valor, family, influenza, women, African-American troops, and of course, my particular interest: death, dying and emotional surrogacy.

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Elizabeth Hocker, MD circa 1917.

I’ve developed a personal attachment to these materials, as archivists and historians do, and I’m eager to promote their use – especially now as opportunities arise to further examine the history of World War I and women’s roles in that conflict. As we commemorate the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, I think of Elizabeth Hocker’s words: “Our boys will have their praises sung for the next century.”

And we will, of course, remember what “our boys” did a hundred years ago. But it is also important to remember our caregivers, many of whom were women – those who worked ceaselessly to counterbalance acts of war and retain our humanity. The personal stories found in the Lewis and Hocker collections are waiting to be explored further and add to the body of knowledge on World War I – from the perspective of women in medicine.

 
 

If you would like to research any of these topics or items, please get in touch! archives@drexelmed.edu
 

Diana Lewis scrapbook, approximately 1917-1919

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Diana Lewis additional materials, approximately 1917

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Elizabeth Hocker papers, approximately 1917

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Tuberculosis Strikes the Class of 1944

 Education and outreach, From the collections, Uncategorized  Comments Off on Tuberculosis Strikes the Class of 1944
Feb 022015
 

by John Anderies, our marvelous volunteer

Members of the class of 1944 pose with Dr. Kuhlenbeck at Somerton Airport, Philadelphia. Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy.

Following their first demanding year at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, the women of the class of 1944 were rewarded with a trip to Somerton Airport in northeast Philadelphia. There, Professor of Anatomy Hartwig Kuhlenbeck, himself a licensed pilot, took the young women on flights in his Challenger biplane. A German immigrant who later served in the United States Army Medical Corps during WWII, Kuhlenbeck kept a detailed Tagbuch or Daybook for much of his life:

Donnerstag, Freitag und Sonnabend, den 29., 30., und 31. Mai fliege ich zu Somerton in meinem Challenger zahlreiche kurze Passagierfluge fur meine Studentinnen vom Woman’s Medical College. Ich habe zum Schluss dieses akademischen Jahres die Klasse des ersten Studienjahres – die “freshman class” – zu einem Fluge eingeladen und wir haben diese Klasse von 39 Studentinnen hierzu in drei Gruppen auf drei aufeinanderfolgende Tage verteilt – ich kann bei jedem Fluge je zwei Passagiere im vorderen Cockpit unterbringen. Auch meine Assistentinnen und die Laborantin sind bei dieser Veranstaltung einbegriffen.1

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the 29th, 30th, and 31st of May, I’m flying many short passenger flights in my Challenger at Somerton for my students from the Woman’s Medical College. For the end of this academic year, I invited the first-year class (the “freshman class”) to take a flight, and we’ve divided this class of thirty-nine students into three groups on three successive days. I can accommodate two passengers in the front cockpit on each flight. My assistants and laboratory technician are also included in this event.

The class of 1944 was originally composed of 41 women. During this weekend of sailing through the skies, none would have expected the changes that were to come. According to an oral history interview conducted with one classmate, almost a third of the women had to drop out of medical school because they contracted tuberculosis. Most of these women did not make it back to finish their degrees. Sadly, at least two of the women died of the disease. Continue reading »


  1. Tagenbuchblaetter, 1938-1941. Hartwig Kuhlenbeck papers. Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy. 

Hear ye, hear ye! Bradford’s “labor of love” now digitized for all!

 Archival procedures, From the collections, Happenings  Comments Off on Hear ye, hear ye! Bradford’s “labor of love” now digitized for all!
Oct 212014
 

To view all 36 volumes of Bradford’s Biographies of Homeopathic Physicians
on Internet Archive, click here.

Dr. Bradford, librarian and former lecturer on the history of medicine at Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia, completed his Biographies of Homeopathic Physicians in 1918. His Biographies consist of 36 massive scrapbook volumes, most with well over 300 pages. Inside a volume, you’ll find newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, notes from transactions of Philadelphia-area medical societies, and excerpts from William Harvey King’s History of Homeopathy and its Institutions in America. If you can think of a late 19th- or early 20th-century homeopathic physician (women physicians included), it’s likely there’s some information about him or her in Bradford’s scrapbooks »

Thomas Lindsley Bradford was born in New Hampshire on June 6, 1847. He attended Harvard Medical School and then the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, where he received his degree in 1869. Until 1877, Bradford practiced in Maine and traveled to various medical institutions in Europe and Great Britain. In 1877, he moved to Philadelphia to practice and was “a prominent figure in homœopathic circles”1. Bradford published various other works, including the History of The Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia and A Characteristic Materia Medica. He was lecturer on the history of Medicine at Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia from 1895 to 1900, and served as the College’s librarian from 1894.

 

As librarian, Bradford seemed to be protective of his books, and there is no doubt in my mind he was (a bit) strict with the medical students who came in to use his books. The title page in his scrapbook, for example, advises: “These books are not to be taken from the Library Reading Room, and are to be kept under lock and key. Excerpts may be made from them by any responsible person. It is hoped that they may never be mutilated by literary vandals. They represent much labor, but it has been a labor of love.” I wonder if these “literary vandals” were the types to scrawl quotes such as “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” (T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”) in the margins while twirling their mustaches…?

 

For the past couple weeks, I have been working on making Bradford’s Biographies available on Internet Archive (IA). Last time we here at the Legacy Center uploaded a book to IA, we had some…struggles. However, this time, after browsing the forums, we decided to try one poster’s suggestion of uploading books as .pdf files, rather than going through the process of file re-naming, zipping, etc., etc. All 36 volumes of the scrapbooks had been shot using our camera several years ago. The master .tiff files were really large, so I began the process of converting all to .jpg files. Unfortunately, converting to .jpg files with a resolution of 12 did not reduce the file size enough to create a PDF (Adobe Acrobat really, really hated them) so, taking advice from my colleague, I tried downgrading to a 10 resolution, at which level the images still looked good. Initially, we were concerned about the image quality because IA makes derivatives from the uploaded file, which in our case had been already been through some downsampling. However, a test upload proved our fears wrong.

The next hurdle to overcome: Acrobat still really, really hated some of the files; well, those over 2 GB.  It was back to the drawing board (I mean scouring the internet in desperation) to find a solution. One helpful person posted a blog about their issues with saving large .pdf files (Adobe just won’t save if they’re over 2 GB): save them as  PDF/X. For some reason unbeknownst to me, or perhaps because this format is meant “facilitate graphics properties,” it worked! While I got an error message that my PDFs did not convert “properly” to PDF/X, it still saved successfully, and honestly, they look better than the regular .pdf files did. So from .tiff to .jpg to .pdfx, the pages of Bradford’s “labor of love” slowly became upload-able, and one step closer to being accessible for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Uploading the files to IA was the easiest part. There’s even a option to save the basic metadata that’s input at the time of upload, so I didn’t need to enter it 36 times, although the addition of fields such as “contributor” and “rights” had to be added manually after the objects were derived (usually a few hours). And something else to keep in mind: don’t try uploading with Mozilla Firefox; use Google Chrome, as Chrome’s upload limit is 4 GB as opposed to Firefox’s 2 GB. Fortunately, I was smart enough to check up on this before attempting the first upload.

Like Bradford writing his Biographies, uploading them for me “represent[s] much labor, but it has been a labor of love.”

To view all 36 volumes of Bradford’s Biographies of Homeopathic Physicians on Internet Archive, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. King, William Harvey. History of homoeopathy and its institutions in America; their founders, benefactors, faculties, officers, hospitals, alumni, etc., with a record of achievement of its representatives in the world of medicine. New York, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905. 

Working with the Sources:The American Women’s Hospitals in the Near East

 From the collections  Comments Off on Working with the Sources:The American Women’s Hospitals in the Near East
Sep 032014
 

The American Women’s Hospitals (AWH) was started in 1917 to provide, register and finance American women physicians for war work; to offer medical and emergency relief to refugees; and, later, to provide international public health service. The following is an excerpt from Virginia Metaxas’s article on the AWH use of field information to publicize and raise funds for their ongoing work. The full article can be found here.


by Virginia Metaxas, Ph.D., Professor of History and Women’s Studies, Southern Connecticut State University Legacy Center 2010 M. Louise Carpenter Gloeckner Fellow

Refugee camp on the island of Macronissi, circa 1922

The largest American Women’s Hospitals projects in the 1920s and 1930s were in Greece, where long term medical aid was desperately needed, due to the devastation left by the First World, Balkan, and Greco-Turkish Wars.  To meet the vast needs for medical relief, President Esther Pohl Lovejoy found that she had to spend much of her time fundraising.  As early as 1919, she realized that she needed to capitalize on human interest stories as well as factual material in order to procure private and public support of the AWH projects.  In a letter written to Dr. Ruth A. Parmelee, a physician and medical missionary working in Harpoot [now Harput] Turkey, Dr. Lovejoy succinctly said:

We are very much interested in the work you are doing and we should greatly appreciate a more complete description of the cases you are meeting.  I observe that your total number of treatments for the month of August was something over three thousand.  It is very helpful in this office to have letters descriptive of conditions that are of human interest.   In other words, stories of suffering and heroism such as will help us in our effort to secure funds to continue this work. 1

Dr. Parmelee, who served in Greece for three decades in various capacities under the auspices of the AWH, took Dr. Lovejoy’s advice to heart.  She became, in a very real way, an impassioned advocate for the continued support of the Christian Greeks and Armenians she worked among both in Turkey and in Greece.  Without exaggeration, Parmelee was one of the most articulate reporters of conditions witnessed by AWH staff abroad.  Having grown up in Turkey, the daughter of missionary parents, and a fluent speaker of many of the Near Eastern languages (Armenian, Greek, Turkish), she may have had a particularly empathetic feeling for the people with whom she worked. Through her four decades of work in Turkey and Greece, she sent a constant stream of information from the field to the AWH office in New York, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Boston, other professional medical women’s organizations, and to the general public in the form of medical reports, professional and newspaper articles, books, private and public letters, speeches, lectures, and more.  Dr. Lovejoy was supreme at this sort of activity, publishing three major books and hundreds of professional and lay articles, giving speeches and lectures, and participating in other promotional activities too numerous to count.   She required all of the AWH physicians working in the field to send statistical data as well as ‘stories’ for use in publicity materials used for fundraising.  These abundant and varied materials, many of which are located in the Records of the American Women’s Hospitals, are a windfall to historians seeking documentation of the work of the AWH.  It is also the task of the historian to identify biases in sources and to situate their significance in a larger context.

Dr. Ruth Parmelee and nurse. Salonica, Greece, 1922.

Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, 1918.

Lovejoy’s and Parmelee’s work in reporting what they saw and heard, and their calls for support and action, built upon a tradition set in motion earlier by secular and missionary Americans who had served in various Near Eastern locations.  In the context of rising nationalisms in the region, Americans had witnessed many years of conflict between the Muslim Turks, who they often characterized as feared,  despised, and uncivilized “Mohammedans,” and Greeks and Armenians, who they characterized as “Christian martyrs,” especially in the context of resistance to Ottoman rule.  Indeed, late nineteenth and early twentieth century reports from American missionaries and diplomats had resulted in widespread public awareness of the plight of Armenians and Greeks in the waning final years of the Ottoman Empire.  Many grassroots organizations, both religious and secular, conducted massive public fundraising campaigns so that American citizens knew of and contributed to saving the thousands of “starving Armenians” displaced by the conflict in the area.2  The Greek genocide and forced population exchange of 1922 became part of the American consciousness through the efforts of American witnesses who sought to form public attitudes and possibly achieve humanitarian intervention. These unprecedented international human rights campaigns helped shape America’s national and international identity.  3  AWH fundraising efforts shrewdly adopted these familiar tropes as a means of obtaining the funds to provide medical relief.  They joined the chorus of voices speaking against the growing evidence of ‘Turkification’ perpetrated by the Kemalist government, policies that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Christian populations in the region. Read the full article.


  1. Italics mine.  Letter to Dr. Ruth A. Parmelee from Chairman EL (Esther Pohl Lovejoy), November 26, 1919, Records of the American Women’s Hospitals, Acc. 144, Box 9, Folder 73.  The Records of the American Women’s Hospitals are located at Drexel University College of Medicine, The Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections, Philadelphia, PA 19129.  Thanks to the generosity of the M. Louise Carpenter Gloeckner, M.D. Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to spend several weeks at the archives during the summer of 2010.  I am very grateful to have received this support and for all the wonderful help of the staff there, including Joanne Murray, Director, Margaret Graham, Digital Resources Archivist, Lisa Grimm, Assistant Archivist, (who left shortly after I arrived) and Karen Ernst, Administrative Assistant.  Their expertise and welcoming ways made my stay there very productive and joyful. 

  2. A recent treatment of the Armenian genocide and the response by the American public and government can be found in: Peter Balakian, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (New York: Harper Collins, 2003).  

  3. See Barbara Reeves-Ellington’s dissertation “That our daughters may be as corner stones: American missionaries, Bulgarian nationalists, and the politics of gender” (Graduate School of Binghamton University State University of New York, 2001) for a critical study of the role of American women missionaries in shaping U.S. ambitions for empire during the nineteenth century in the Ottoman Empire. 

 Posted by on September 3, 2014

The Mystery of the Shrunken Head

 Archival procedures, From the collections  Comments Off on The Mystery of the Shrunken Head
Jul 232014
 

Kuhlenbeck with bookFor the past several weeks, I’ve been processing the extensive Hartwig Kuhlenbeck collection. Kuhlenbeck, born in Germany in 1897, was Professor of Anatomy and, later, Emeritus Professor at Woman’s Medical College, and served as Major of the Medical Corps of the United States Army during World War II.  He traveled all over the world, including the Alps, Alaska, the South Pacific, India, South America, and spent several years in Japan at the Imperial University and Keio University in Tokyo as Dozent of Anatomy and Comparative Neurology during the 1920s.  He’s an interesting man with an interesting collection.  While Kuhlenbeck deserves an entire blog post to himself, one item in his collection is just begging to be written about.

Kuhlenbeck saved various memorabilia from his travels: souvenir postcards and stationery, maps, museum booklets, hotel receipts.  Fun stuff to look through, and much the same as we save from our vacations today.

In 1951, Kuhlenbeck spent several months in South America, lecturing (in Spanish, of course) at the Neurological Clinic of the University of Montevideo, Uruguay; the Hortega Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the Universities of Santiago and Concepcion in Chile.  He visited “a number of additional Medical Schools and Scientific Institutions…[to collect] material for comparative neurological study.” He also collected a shrunken head, allegedly from the Jivaro people.

The Jivaro are South American Indian people living in Ecuador and Peru, north of the Marañón River in the eastern part of the Andes mountains. They are war-like and well-known for their talent of shrinking heads to the size of apples.1 Kuhlenbeck described the head-shrinking process as such:

In the manufacture of the skin tsantsas, the separated head is split by a cut from the apex across the occiput to the rear end of the neck stump and carefully peeled away from the skull; the skinned skull is thrown away. The skin sack is then cooked for several hours in a boiler, where water and plant juices, known to the Indians as conducive to shrinkage, are mixed. Then the head-hunters sew the incision to guide the peeling skin and again achieve a further shrinkage, and at the same time shape [the head] by placing hot stones in the neck opening of the skin sack, and roll the stones back and forth. Furthermore, the outer side of the head is flattened with smooth stones and modeled. Finally, hot sand is poured through the neck opening into the interior of the hollow head; so that the final drying and shrinkage is caused, which can be completed by a kind of incense on the fire.

During his visit to Ecuador, Kuhlenbeck wrote in his Tagebuch (you view the relevant pages and translation here) about the day he purchased the shrunken head:

An old Indian woman, sitting there on a blanket spread out on the street, offers a variety of handicrafts for sale at which I look. As I exchange a few words with her, she pulls out of a basket a blackish, shrunken head,  the size of a small human fist, with a long dark mop of hair, which she offers to sell to me for a few dollars…It is apparently one of those designated as Tsantsa Trophies of the Jivaro (Jibaros), the wild Indian tribes of the tropical jungle in the upper Amazon.

Clearly not as skeptical as some would be when offered such merchandise for a measly few dollars, Kuhlenbeck seemed to believe it was the real deal:

The head, which the squaw offers to me, is obviously true – it shows the face of a young person of about 20 to 30 years, with slightly Negroid and some feminine traits. I am therefore not quite sure if it was a young man or is a woman. In the latter case, the value would only have been a very little as a trophy for the Jivaro. Also, it is probably a half-breed head, perhaps the one Zambos. The lips are sewn, as is generally the case with these heads, with only a single thread loop. Nevertheless, this  shrunken head offered to me is an unusual showpiece with an almost living facial expression. Therefore, I pay the high price and put the head, like an apple, in my coat pocket.

shrunken headNow, meet Jürgen Jivaro (we here at the Legacy Center have dubbed it as such, feeling it needed a name).  The question is, “Is it authentic?”  Authentic in this case – a true tsantsa – means a shrunken human head prepared with correct ceremonial and religious rituals by the Jivaro people.   I’m still undecided, but signs are pointing to it being a forgery – whether human, it’s very difficult to tell.

My first foray into Jürgen’s authenticity was to find out what Kuhlenbeck himself had written; luckily for me, he mentioned the date of his South American tour in a short autobiography.  From there it took several hours of paging through his Tagebuch (day book, literally) until finding some mention of the Jivaro – a tough task considering my German is a bit rusty!  With the help of Google Translate (quite possibly, the bane of foreign language teachers everywhere), I soon discovered the means by which Kuhlenbeck acquired Jürgen (as excerpted above).

Well, Kuhlenbeck seemed to harbor little doubts as to the authenticity of the shrunken head, but that didn’t settle it for me.  So I did some digging.  One helpful article, “Shrunken head (tsantsa): A complete forensic analysis procedure,” listed diagnosis criteria for authenticating shrunken heads.  Jürgen fit only four of these criteria well.2   Another article, a case study written in 1975 about two shrunken heads in the nearby Mütter Museum3, seemed to present evidence that Jürgen is not authentic.

So what did I find out about authentic tsantsa and forgeries?  A ‘forgery’ or ‘fake’ can be either a shrunken human head not prepared with the correct ritual (sometimes referred to as “tourist heads”2) or one made of an animal head (commonly sloth); animal hide; or even plastic.Here’s what I found about our shrunken head, and why I believe it’s not authentic, but (best case) a “tourist head” or (worst case) a fake composed of animal skin.

While Jürgen’s skin is smooth and polished with what could be charcoal, and there are stitches up the back of its head, it is clearly missing some qualities authentic shrunken heads share.  Yes, it’s not uncommon for the hair to be cut or for the string attached to the top of the head to be absent.  However, while Jürgen’s ears seem to be blocked with some sort of material, they’re not pierced.  Its eyes are not completely shut, let alone sealed.  This, and the fact that its lips are sewn through with only one thread as opposed to three, seem to point to the head being a forgery.  The Jivaro made certain the lips and eyes were sealed and sewn tight to ensure the spirit could neither see nor escape.  Additionally, the thumb-sized depressions found on the temples of authentic tsantsas are not noticeable.2,3

Blocked, unpierced ear

Side view showing eyes and lack of depression

Back of head showing stitching

Kuhlenbeck also mentioned that the shrunken head he purchased had “an almost living facial expression.” It has been stated that the Jivaros would purposefully distort the heads to ridicule their enemies and made no attempts to make the facial expressions look ‘alive.’3

All this evidence leads me to believe Jürgen is a forgery, much as I would like it to be authentic. Without the use of high-powered microscopes or DNA testing, we probably won’t know whether it is a human head. So what do you think? Is Jürgen authentic or just a clever forgery?

Sources cited:
1. “Jívaro.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014.
2. Charlier, P.; Charlier, I-Huynh; Brun, L.; Herve, C.; and de la Grandmaison, Lorin. “Shrunken head (tsantsa): A complete forensic analysis procedure.” Forensic Science International, 222 (2012): 399e1-399e5.
3. Mutter, George L. “Jivaro Tsantsas, Authentic and Forged: A Study of Two Shrunken Heads in the Mütter Museum.” Transactions & Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia 43, no. 2 (1975): 78-82.

Guest post from intern Tracy Ulmer

 Archival procedures, From the collections, Happenings  Comments Off on Guest post from intern Tracy Ulmer
Jan 302014
 

 by intern Claire (Tracy) Ulmer
This article is also posted on the HCI-PSAR blog. 

This fall I processed two collections as part of the HCI-PSAR Internship Pilot Program, facilitated by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR). As part of this project I received guidance and supervision from professional archivists at the Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections where I processed the Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. papers and at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, where I processed the Philadelphia Canoe Club records.

The end goal of this internship pilot program was to make better known and more accessible the hidden archival collections held at the numerous small repositories throughout the five-county Philadelphia area (as well as to work out any kinks in the program!). While I certainly aided in this end goal, it was not the end goal I had for myself.

Other than an assignment for an archival studies class at Drexel University where I processed a collection of just 50 pages, I had no experience in processing archival collections. Sure, I had all the theory, knew all the lingo… but processing a comparatively small-scale class assignment and an actual collection are two very different things! This internship was a chance for me to merge my knowledge with experience.

I first processed the personal papers of Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. and then the organizational papers of the Philadelphia Canoe Club. Over the months I learned first-hand what I recall discussing in all of my archival studies classes: what one wants to accomplish following archival theory is very different from what one might be capable of accomplishing given situational circumstances! It is theory versus reality, and it can be as frustrating as all get out.

Jessie Laird Brodie, MD collection before processing

Time, of course, is always a limiting factor, and my biggest challenge as I felt the pinch while processing both collections, particularly when I had to remind myself that I did not have time for minutia. Time versus thoroughness became my internal mantra. This factor inevitably led to compromise between the ideal and reality. For example, for the Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. papers I was not able to organize or describe the 800 some odd 35 mm slides beyond, “The slides appear to be of Brodie’s travels outside the United States and are generally labeled with the country shown in the slides, but do not always have a date.” While frustrating, I had to accept that this area of the collection was simply not going to receive as much attention in terms of physical or intellectual arrangement.

Limiting how much attention I could give the two collections was a particular difficulty for me. The desire to get into every nook and cranny, figuratively speaking, was immense. As someone looking to enter the archival profession, where such detailed work is generally not possible due to time constraints, funding, and backlogs, pulling back from the minute was something I had to remind myself of every day I worked on the collections. Certainly starting with a collection of personal papers this was more difficult, but working on an organizational collection at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society was comparatively much easier. Folder labels were typically obvious and straightforward; for the most part I did not have to spend time double-checking that the contents of a folder were what the folder title purported them to be.

Jessie Laird Brodie, MD collection after processing

After working with two types of archival collections, there were two key principles I have since taken in mind: there are numerous ways to process any given collection; time and experience will help me to ferret out the best way to process various types of collections in the shortest amount of time possible. Also: always double check to make sure you pull all of the boxes belonging to one collection so you do not end up with a surprise box at the end when you go to put the collection away!

 Posted by on January 30, 2014

Constantine Hering: The Father of American Homeopathy

 Education and outreach, From the collections  Comments Off on Constantine Hering: The Father of American Homeopathy
Dec 102013
 


Constantine Hering, M.D., the father of homeopathy in America, was born on January 1, 1800 in Oschatz, Saxony, in Germany. In 1817, he began studying medicine at a surgical academy in Dresden. By 1820, he was enrolled at the University of Leipzig and during his studies there, he turned to homeopathy after injuring himself during a post-mortem examination. Refusing the traditional treatment of the time – amputation – he turned to homeopathy and was healed. Hering became a practitioner of homeopathy and was a great advocate for Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathic medicine. In 1826, he graduated from the University of Wurzburg with a doctor of medicine. He then spent the next 7 years in South America researching zoology and botany on the orders of the King of Saxony. Hering, however, continued working in homeopathic medicine at hospitals and a leper colony. In 1833, he immigrated to the United States and opened his own medical practice.

A homeopathic medicine case, likely Hering's

Homeopathy is based on the principle that ‘like cures like’ – so a substance which causes symptoms in large doses will treat those same symptoms in small doses. Just as drinking several cups of coffee might make you stay up all night, taking the essence of coffee in small, highly diluted doses will help you sleep more easily. While this may sound counter-productive, the concept of ‘like cures like’ is sometimes used in traditional medicine, like using small amounts of pollen to de-sensitize a person allergic to it.

The idea of treating like with like dates as far back as Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician who lived from 460 to 377 B.C.E. He is known as the father of western medicine. When Samuel Hahnemann discovered this method of treatment in the 19th century, he embraced it as an alternative the harsh medical treatments of the time, which often included blood-letting and purging. It is not difficult to see why Constantine Hering turned to homeopathy when he was at risk of losing a limb.

 

Hering, ca. 1850s

Once in Philadelphia, Hering founded the Hahnemannian Society of Philadelphia. He promoted the use of homeopathic medicine and, in 1835, along with several other doctors, he founded the North American Academy of Homeopathic Medicine in Allentown, Pennsylvania – the first homeopathic medical school in the United States. The Allentown Academy remained open until 1842. In 1838, the Homeopathic Medical Society of Philadelphia was founded. The Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania opened in 1848 and in 1867, Hahnemann Medical College opened, both in Philadelphia. The two schools merged in 1871. Constantine Hering also published several scholarly journals, including the American Journal of Homeopathy (1835) and the Philadelphia Journal of Homeopathy (1852). He wrote several books as well, like his The Logic of Homeopathy (1860s). Hering continued practicing homeopathic medicine until his death in 1880.

 

Hering in his study, ca. 1870s


The Legacy Center holds Hering’s papers as well as those of his son-in-law, Calvin Knerr, who took over Hering’s practice after his death. The finding aid for this collection can be found here: Constantine Hering and Calvin B. Knerr Family Papers. In addition to the family papers, the Legacy Center has Hering’s collection of the works of Paracelsus, a 16th-century Swiss German physician who founded the discipline of toxicology. A PDF catalogue listing of the works in the collection can be found here: Paracelsus catalogue.