With the United States fighting in World War I, thousands of men had volunteered or were drafted for service in the military. This included physicians as well and left the country with a shortage of doctors. Dr. Martha Tracy, acting Dean of Woman’s Medical College (WMCP), knew that women physicians could fill these roles, and called for more women to enroll in medical school.
Women were not permitted to serve in the military. Many American women physicians wanted the chance to serve their country and provide medical care for soldiers as well as civilians affected by the war in Continental Europe. Some worked with the Red Cross; others, members of the Medical Women’s National Association, established the War Committee in 1917 and created the American Women’s Hospitals (AWH). Rosalie Slaughter Morton, WMCP class of 1897, was the first chairwoman of the AWH. The AWH worked with the Red Cross and the American Committee for Devastated France to open hospitals and provide medical care and preventive services to French civilians affected by the war. Faculty members of WMCP asked for leaves of absences in order to contribute to the war effort in France and recent graduates found work “over there” as well.