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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Male Doctors & Others

Thérèse Bonney, photographer. Doris Fleischman and Edward Bernays, Paris / Bonney, 12, Rue Montalivet, Paris. Circa 1925. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The papers of male physicians are also good sources of information about women's medical issues and women's involvement in medical professions. Two examples illustrate this point:

  • Physician Joseph Meredith Toner (237,000 items; 1741-1896) collected among his papers an eighteenth-century manuscript on midwifery and nineteenth-century medical papers on pregnancy, childbirth, venereal disease, and uterine hemorrhaging (see also the Toner collection in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division).
  • Pathologist and physician John W. Colbert (400 items; 1895-1966; bulk 1903-44) documented his training of nurses in Puerto Rico in 1904-05, his work with Red Cross nurses during World War I, and his advocacy of women's participation in war efforts as the founder of the Woman's Ambulance and Defense Corps of America in the 1940s.
  • The papers (12,600 items, 1933-2010; bulk 1960-1985) of the reproductive biologist Min Chueh Chang (1908-1991) pertain to the research he conducted in the years after discovering the combined oral contraceptive pill in the late 1950's and successfully demonstrating in vitro fertilization in rabbits in 1959.

Research in the papers of other male doctors (see especially section on Mental Health) would undoubtedly reveal additional source material of interest to women's historians, as would a broader search of the division's catalogs for the names of individual women doctors and nurses, medical conditions, and organizations and associations.

Casting a wide net often results in some unexpected finds, such as when a search for the term “American Nurses Association” uncovers the papers of public relations executive Edward L. Bernays (227,000 items; 1777-1994; bulk 1920-90), whose clients included many women in the fields of arts and politics. Bernays also represented Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, the Lucy Stone League, and various pharmaceutical companies. For one of his ad campaigns for the American Tobacco Company Bernays sought to link women's equality with smoking in public, and he arranged for society women to light up during New York's 1929 Easter Parade and for college coeds to lobby for the right to smoke on campus.

The Bernays Papers are a good source not only for women's medical issues but also for studying how advertising was directed toward women, who were thought to control household budgets. They also document the important role his wife, Doris Fleischman Bernays (1891-1980), played in his business affairs and include some of her correspondence, a draft manuscript of her book A Wife Is Many Women (1955), and background information for her pioneering 1928 book An Outline of Careers for Women. Correspondence also exists for Edward and Doris's daughter, novelist Anne Bernays.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.