In the late nineteenth century, as Americans debated the "woman
question," a battle over the meaning of biology arose in the
medical profession. Some medical men claimed that women were
naturally weak, that education would make them physically ill, and
that women physicians endangered the profession. Mary Putnam Jacobi
(1842-1906), a physician from New York, worked to prove them wrong
and argued that social restrictions, not biology, threatened female
Mary Putnam Jacobi and the Politics of Medicine in
is the first full-length biography
of Mary Putnam Jacobi, the most significant woman physician of her
era and an outspoken advocate for women's rights. Jacobi rose to
national prominence in the 1870s and went on to practice medicine,
teach, and conduct research for over three decades. She campaigned
for co-education, professional opportunities, labor reform, and
suffrage--the most important women's rights issues of her day.
Downplaying gender differences, she used the laboratory to prove
that women were biologically capable of working, learning, and
voting. Science, she believed, held the key to promoting and
producing gender equality.
Carla Bittel's biography of Jacobi offers a piercing view of the
role of science in nineteenth-century women's rights movements and
provides historical perspective on continuing debates about gender
and science today.