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Introduction by Natalie Pigeard-Micault
Paris X, EA 373 History of philosophy, History of sciences.
Translation by Karine Debbasch
The second decade of the Empire was a turning point for France. In 1867, Victor Duruy, Minister of Public Instruction, created secondary courses for young women. These were such a success that there were soon 250 to 300 young women attending every course given at the Sorbonne.  But although these courses were popular in the liberal bourgeoisie , they did not compensate for the absence of a secondary education that would provide women with the knowledge necessary to take the baccalaureate diploma and to register at University. In France, as no structure was specifically designed for them, women had to impose themselves among male students. In 1861, Julie Daubié registered for the baccalaureate and took it in Lyon (she was refused permission to do so in Paris). However, she was an exception. In other countries, the situation was different: in Russia, England, the United States, Rumania and still other countries, young women could attend secondary courses either in private schools created especially for them (and often by them, too) or in public schools that were female only. In Russia, although secondary education remained open to women, the Russian government decided in 1862 to close Saint Petersburg’s private higher education schools for women. Young Russian women however, contrary to French young women, had access to the instruction necessary for further education. Thus, the first woman to enter a medical school was Russian.
In 1864, a Russian young woman left her country to study medicine in Zurich. In the fall, she solicited from the Swiss Senate the authorization to attend the classes in natural history, anatomy and histology given at the University of Zurich. She got the approval of the professors and the Senate granted her request; but in the end she did not take her degree. In 1865 Nadejda Souslova was in turn accepted at Zurich. In 1866, she requested the right to defend a doctoral thesis; she thus became the first woman doctor to graduate from a mixed European university. Nadejda Souslova’ success immediately reverberated among Russian, English and American women.
In 1866, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Charles Adolphe Wurtz (1817-1884), met Madeleine Brès (1839-1925), who wanted to undertake medical studies. Wurtz advised her to start with taking the baccalaureate examinations, but he also promised her that he would plead her case to the Ministry of Public Instruction.
As he knew that two years earlier women had been allowed at the medical school in Zurich, Wurtz asked Doctor Alexis Dureau (1831-1904) to go there. Dureau wrote: "Dean Wurtz thus commissioned me to enquire about everything that was related, from both a legal and a practical point of view, to admitting women into foreign universities." 
After Dureau’s return, Wurtz submitted to Victor Duruy a report on female education across Europe and was able to win Madeleine Brès’s case. But before Madeleine Brès came back with her baccalaureate degrees, three foreign women had already been admitted to the medical school: Mary Putnam (American, born in London), Catherine Gontcharoff (Russian), and Elizabeth Garrett (English).
The world of medically educated women, although geographically quite large, was numerically restricted enough for a network to develop quickly. In 1867, the Englishwoman Elizabeth Garrett wrote to Mary Putnam, who was trying to gain admission to the Paris faculty of medicine, to enquire about the outcome of her attempt. When she learnt that Mary Putnam had been admitted, Elizabeth Garrett crossed the Channel and registered too. She became the first woman doctor of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris with a thesis on migraines that she defended on June 15, 1870.
When Madeleine Brès applied to register in 1868, after obtaining her baccalaureate degrees, the procedure had already ceased to be exceptional. In 1875, she became the first French female doctor of medicine.
Over the next few years, female students went either to the Faculty of Zurich or to that of Paris. In France, over the first 15 years, the majority of female students were of Anglo-Saxon origin. But as of the mid-1880s most of them came from Slavic countries. French women in the University long remained a minority, especially as they started being admitted to medical preparatory schools in the provinces, not at all attended by foreigners. In Paris, there were less than 10 women in medical school before 1873; less than 40 from 1873 to 1881; a hundred in 1884. In 1887, out of the 114 women undertaking medical studies, no more than 12 of them were French; 70 were Russian, 20 Polish, 8 English, 1 North American, 1 Austrian, 1 Greek, and 1 Turkish. 
Mary Putnam (1842-1906), who graduated in 1863 from the New York College of Pharmacy and in 1864 from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia, arrived in Paris in 1866. Although she was mainly interested in chemistry, she gladly followed Dr. Hippolyte Herard (1819-1913), who was a friend of her father’s, as he gave clinical lectures at the hospital. During the academic year 1866-1867, Herard gave her access not only to the medical world but also to several clinical lectures, including Benjamin Ball’s. At the beginning of the year 1867-1868 she was granted permission to study in a booth reserved for her in the library of the Faculté de médecine. In November 1867, she requested the permission to enroll officially at the Faculté. The faculty assembly convened on November 27, 1867. Professor Pierre Denonvilliers reminded the assembly of the opposition of the Public Instruction Council, over which he presided at the time: women’s entrance into medicine was viewed as contrary both to morals and to social conditions. Jules Béhier, professor of clinical medicine, declared that "women, being considered as legal minors from the moment they marry, cannot be held personally liable for anything; consequently, adopting Miss Putnam could entail serious complications." 
In the report on this session, Dean Wurtz is the only one mentioned as having defended Putnam’s case: he underlined that the law said nothing on the question and that very recently the Minister had allowed a woman, Madeleine Brès, to matriculate in medicine, under the condition that she obtained the two baccalaureates. Despite his important position, Wurtz was unable to obtain Mary Putnam’s acceptance: the professors voted against the young pharmacist’s request. Wurtz informed Duruy, who then presented the request to Princess Eugénie. She convened a council of ministers over which she presided herself. In the meantime, Mary Putnam was able to rally a few students to her cause; in the presence of a chaperone, naturally, they shared with her the classes they were allowed to attend.  At the end of the academic year, under the advice of Wurtz, and contrary to what was normally done (matriculation requests had to be validated first by the Faculty, then by the Minister), she directly solicited the Minister, who she knew was supportive of her cause. On July 23, 1871, Mary Putnam became the second woman to receive a medical degree from the Faculté de médecine de Paris, after Elizabeth Garrett (1870). She addressed the first dedication in her thesis to Wurtz, though she did not know his identity at the time: "To the professor whose name I am unaware of, who was the only one to vote in favor of my admission to the École, thereby protesting against the exclusion of women from higher education." 
Madeleine Brès (1839-1925), the first French woman allowed to undertake medical studies at the Faculté de médecine, defended her doctorate in 1875 and graduated "summa cum laude". She was dean Wurtz’s first female student: for 7 years, she worked in his chemistry laboratory.
Among others, Brès dedicated her thesis to Broca, who had played an important role for her five years earlier. In 1870, during the siege of Paris and more particularly during the Commune and the Bloody Week, Madeleine Brès had worked as an intern at the Hôpital de la Pitié de Paris, substituting for Paul Broca who had himself suggested her and appointed her as a temporary intern. Broca recalled:
"Mrs. Brès joined my department in 1869 as a probationary student. In September 1870, several interns having been called to military hospitals, temporary interns had to be appointed. Under my recommendation, Mrs. Brès was designated as a temporary intern. In this capacity, during the two sieges of Paris and until the month of July 1871, she performed her duty with an exactitude that was not even hindered by the bombing of the hospital. Her work has always proved very satisfactory and her behavior faultless. Mrs. Brès was conspicuous for her zeal, her dedication and her impeccable attitude. She proved particularly helpful during the last insurrection." 
After this summary of the events, Broca went on to compliment Mrs. Brès further on her availability and her commitment and also on her qualities as a physician. Jules Gavarret, Constant Sappey, Paul Lorain and Charles Adolphe Wurtz also wrote in praise of her in a joint report:
"We are pleased to declare that Mrs. Brès, through her impeccable behavior, her hard work and her zeal in the hospital, gained the respect of all the students she had to interact with, and justified the opening of our courses to other female students." 
At the beginning of the 1871 academic year, she requested permission to take the externship and internship examinations. The director of the Assistance publique, despite the petitions and demonstrations in her favor, rejected her request with the following explanation: "Perhaps if it had been for you alone…" 
The point was therefore not to create any precedent. After this rebuttal, female students launched several petitions to obtain the same rights to examinations and diplomas as male students. At last, in 1881, the Conseil de surveillance de l'administration de l'Assistance publique finally convened to solve the question of opening externships to women; that of internship was similarly addressed in 1885.
Postcard, ca. 1900
Scientific and medical journals did publish articles concerning women doctors, but these mostly focused on the situation abroad.  Female students in France were never mentioned. Theoretical questions were raised, but the actual French situation was not even alluded to. When Elizabeth Garrett became the first woman to defend her thesis, the event received no comment whatsoever, apart from the following line: "The Faculté de médecine de Paris has just granted Miss Garrett a medical degree". The few later mentions of the event appeared in the "miscellaneous" column.  But the press and various writings surrounding it allow one to see how the stereotype of the woman-doctor was created.
"(…) The accoutrement (blood-stained overalls), the appalling rooms, the human body parts and remains, the hard work contrast most crudely with feminine curves. (…) These young women lose the graciousness, the gentleness, the charm of their sex. They are neither women nor men." 
Then came the physical nature of women:
"And when they are pregnant, how will they get close to their patients with their swollen bellies ?" 
Both the study and the practice of medicine required masculine qualities:
"In order to be a physician one needs a sharp and open mind, a solid and varied education, a serious and strong character, a great deal of self-control, a mix of benignity and stamina, a complete command over one’s feelings, moral vigor and, when necessary, muscular strength. (…) Isn’t feminine nature just the opposite?" 
Le Journal de médecine et de chirurgie pratique resorted to social morals:
"Medical journals keep arguing about women doctors (…). Although we believe, as most of our colleagues do, that women should not practice the medical profession, we have reasons of our own. Some say that women are not cut out for hard, repugnant medical studies; their sensitivity, greater than that of men, would prevent them from undertaking such studies, and their intelligence would not be comprehensive enough (…) But this is not true, as experience has proved. (…) What objection have we got left? The only truly serious one. (…) Working as a doctor is absolutely incompatible with a woman’s life."
"Women doctors will renounce marriage; so be it! They will silence their hearts, their senses (…) stifle their instincts (…) they will not be women any longer (…) their moral beings will have undergone a complete transformation (…) Their physical beings will remain." 
In June 1875:
"Women cannot seriously pursue medical careers (…) unless they stop being women: due to physiological laws, women doctors are ambiguous, hermaphrodite or sexless creatures, monsters at any rate. Let those who fancy such a distinction try to acquire it." 
The Gazette hebdomadaire de médecine et de chirurgie referred to "androgynous monsters". 
Little by little, the fear of female competition dominated the debate.
For fear that women doctors might believe the contrary, the Journal de médecine et de chirurgie pratique specified: "Let us add that it seems obvious that in France women would be exposed to utter failure concerning the final outcome." 
In 1884, at the time of the controversy surrounding women's admission to internship, Manouvrier, a journalist at the Revue rose, a journal that publicly supported the admission of women, evoked the competition feared by opponents. "They (the opponents) would say that letting women acquire as much or more competence as male doctors in delivering babies and in female or children’s diseases, good sources of profit that anyone would be sorry to lose, would endanger the corporation." 
The sentence from the Gazette hebdomadaire de médecine et de chirurgie pratique called for no appeal. Dechambre, who saw through Duruy’s project to open a medical school for women, who would then be appointed to medical posts in the colonies, fulminated.
"Today (…) we find a former Minister of Public Instruction who is starting to recruit them for the medical profession. (…) The final aim is to push women into amphitheatres and hospitals and to make doctors out of them, no less. The project was initially conceived of by a most respectable lady (Princess Eugénie) for Turkish women, but it is now being extended to Algerian women, and will soon be extended to the whole world. (…)
Although the scope of the project is limited and the school will not issue medical degrees, women will take their degrees at the University, and they will be able to practice the medical profession anywhere, not in colonized countries only. (…) There is no doubt that this first step will lead to the generalization in the fair sex of both the study and the practice of medicine.
(…) One might however, in a pinch, conceive of the temporary usefulness of women doctors in these countries; but we cannot conceive of such a need ever being felt in France." 
History has retained part of Sorrel-Dejerine’s testimony according to which female students were systematically booed by their male counterparts.  Before entering the amphitheatre, the female students had to wait for the professor in the cloakroom. They had to sit in the first row, under the protection of the professor. In spite of this precaution, they were reportedly booed and insulted. One day, as they were tired of waiting for the professor before entering the amphitheatre, they decided they would go in by themselves and that they would sit, not in the first row, but on the benches among the male students. This unexpected move left the male students open-mouthed and put an end to their jokes.  Even if the 1884 petition against internship for women emanated from ninety male interns, the mocking and aggressive attitude seems to have been far from universal.
"We want today not a slightly better educated female companion, but an equal, and we give women all the resources that so far were our exclusive privilege so that they might actually become our equals. (…) We have reason to believe that the first cause of the general inferiority of women’s aptitudes compared to men’s is the difference in education. (…) Of the female students currently in our school, not one has incurred the slightest reproach on her behavior; their attitude, be it in the hospital, the amphitheatre or the ward, has inspired nothing but respect and admiration". 
The same was true of the Faculté de droit.
"At the end of the first year classes, Mr. Colmet de Santerre, professor of civil law, addressing the students, declared almost in these words: ‘We hesitated before granting Miss Bilcescu permission to attend the lectures, for fear we might have to police the amphitheatres; but this young woman, whose assiduity and behavior have been exemplary, forced our esteem; you have respected her like a sister, and we thank you for it’. These words were covered by a thunder of applause." 
These testimonies tend to prove that students were more open to women entering the university than professors were.  Female students themselves observed that their male counterparts accepted them. Putnam for instance mentioned in her correspondence the complicity of the male students when it came to taking her examinations. Numerous female students also dedicated their dissertations – in a sometimes grandiloquent manner – to supportive males.
Matilda Ayrton, for example, dedicated her thesis: "To the students who, since 1871, have repeatedly made me see that the words "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" are not merely written on the walls but are the very spirit of our school." 
Thus, out of the 28 women who defended their dissertations between 1870 and 1884, very few omitted to write a few words on the welcome they received, as a prefatory dedication or in the text of their work, usually at the end of the introduction. One of the means of support that cannot be denied, because it was mandatory, was that of the student’s husband when she was married, or that of her father otherwise. 
"The conclusion of this dissertation, obviously, is that the second half of the 19th century was marked by a general movement towards the intellectual and professional emancipation of women. All the civilized nations gave a number of women the opportunity to study and practice the medical sciences. The first women to fight for their intellectual and professional emancipation, wherever they were, had to overcome all sorts of difficulties; but nowhere, at least up to now, have their victories been negated." 
The conclusion of Schultze’s dissertation on women’s history mentions female medical students’ involvement in social and political struggles.
Indeed, some of these students fully adhered to the egalitarian claims of feminists – as can be seen through the lives of Garrett and Putnam. Garrett held meetings in favor of women’s suffrage.  In 1908, she was elected mayor of Aldeburgh, on the Suffolk coast, thus becoming the first woman mayor in England.  Mary Putnam became a true socialist at the time of the Paris Commune. Once back in America, she helped Élie Reclus, who after the Commune had taken refuge first in Italy, then in Zurich, to go to the United States (1876). Among the women from the École de médecine de Paris, one should also mention Sophie Ananief, Kropotkin’s wife, who left Wurtz’s chemistry laboratory in 1882 before defending her doctoral dissertation in order to join her husband, who was detained in Claivaux. 
However, other female students, in particular French students, eschewed feminism; this was the case of Madeleine Brès, for instance, who did not want to be considered a feminist. Between 1870 and 1884, thirteen female students’ dissertations out of twenty-eight were written on questions in relation to deliveries, children or women. Five out of the seven French women doctors wrote a dissertation on one of these so-called feminine subjects. In the controversy on women-doctors, unanimity was found when the patients were mentioned. A large majority of those who were in favor of women doctors thought women should be educated in medicine exclusively to take care of children’s and women’s diseases. Some women doctors would have liked to be doctors for women. Mrs. Brès, after her PhD, opened a nursery and gave lectures on children’s and women’s hygiene. In that respect, the first sentence in her dissertation is particularly telling: "My prime intention was to devote myself fully to treating women’s and children’s diseases."
The introduction of Catherine Ribard’s dissertation on the drainage of the eye, which she defended in 1876, is quite revealing as well in this respect :
"When I started studying medicine, I decided that I would later devote myself exclusively to treating women’s and children’s diseases. (…) But during my stay in Paris hospitals, I soon realized that eye diseases frequently affected children."
 Albistur, Maïté - Armogathe, Daniel, Histoire du féminisme français du Moyen-Âge à nos jours (A history of French feminism, from the Middle Ages to our days). Paris: des Femmes, 1977. p. 321.  Meunier, Victor, Cosmos du 18 janvier 1868.  Ollivier, Marie Thérèse, J’ai vécu l’agonie du second Empire (I witnessed the end of the Second Empire), Paris: Fayard, 1970. p. 55.  Lipinska, Mélanie, Histoire des femmes médecins (A history of women doctors), Paris: G. Jacques & Cie ed., PhD dissertation at the Faculté de médecine de Paris, 1900. 586 p.  Dureau, Alexis cited by Lipinska, Mélanie, Histoire des femmes médecins (A history of women doctors). Paris : G. Jacques, 1900. p. 412.  Schultze, Caroline, Les femmes médecins au XIXe siècle (Women doctors in the 19th century). Paris: Ollier-Henry, 1888. p. 16.  The history of the first women doctors can be found mainly in: Lipinska, Mélanie, Histoire des femmes médecins depuis l'antiquité jusqu'à nos jours (A history of women doctors from Antiquity to today). Paris: Jacques, G & cie, 1900. III-586 p.- Lipinska, Mélanie, Les femmes et le progrès des sciences médicales (Women and progress in the medical sciences). Paris: Masson, 1930. III-235 p. -Schultze, Caroline, Les femmes médecins au XIXe siècle siècle (Women doctors in the 19th century). Paris: Ollier-Henry, 1888. 76 p. Joël, Constance, Les filles d'Esculape (The daughters of Esculapius), Paris: Robert Laffont ed., 1988. 234 p.  AN: AJ16/6255, Minutes of the faculty assembly, Nov 27, 1867.  Ibid.  L'ouvrage de Mary Putnam, Life and Letters of Mary Putnam Jacobi, New York, London: G.P. Putnam's sons, 1925. 381 p.  Putnam, Mary, "De la graisse neutre et des acides gras" ("Of neutral fat and fatty acids"), Paris: E. Parent ed., 1871. PhD dissertation at the Faculté de médecine de Paris. 128 p.  Broca cited by Schultze, Caroline, La femme médecin au XIXème siècle (Women doctors in the 19th century), Paris: Ollier-Henry, 1888. p. 19.  Ibid.  Joël, Constance, Les filles d’Esculape (The daughters of Esculapius). Paris: Robert Laffont, 1988. p.110 sqq.  Lipinska, Mélanie Histoire des femmes médecins (A history of women doctors): PhD thesis, Paris: G. Jacques & Cie, 1900, p. 424.  Molinari, G. de "femmes-avocats et femmes-médecins" (Women lawyers and women doctors), Journal des économistes, January 1889 issue, pp. 170-172.  Gaël, A. La femme-médecin, sa raison d'être, au point de vue du droit de la morale et de l'humanité (Women doctors, their moral and human justification). Paris: Le dentu, 1868. 103 p.  Articles: "Les femmes de l'université de Zurich" (Women at Zurich university), Gaz. Hebd. med. chir. n° 35, August 30, 1872 p. 575. - V. Meunier, "Enseignement secondaire des filles" (Female secondary education), Cosmos January 18, 1868, p. 27. - V. Meunier, "Faits divers : les femmes médecins" (News brief: women doctors), Cosmos May 2, 1868, p. 26  Gaz. hebd. med. chir., n° 27, July 8, 1870, p. 432.  "The Faculté de médecine de Paris, as it is growing old, is also becoming liberal. A few years ago, it denied Miss Patnum (sic for Putnam) permission to take her medical examinations within its walls. The Minister had to intervene; but the precedent created for Miss Patnum has since been applied to Miss Elizabeth Garret (sic for Garrett), and there is no reason why France should, in that respect, prove more exclusive than America and the leading nations of Europe" "article 8041", J. méd. chir. prat., July 1870, p. 334.  Richelot, G. La femme-médecin (Women doctors), Paris: E. Dentu, 1875, p. 11.  Ibid  Richelot, G. La femme-médecin (Women doctors), Paris: E. Dentu, 1875, p.43 sqq.  Lucas-Championnaire, Just, "article 9997" J. méd. chir. prat., June 1875 issue. p. 241-242.  Ibid.  "Feuilleton", Gaz. hebd. med. chir., n°38, Sept 20, 1872,. pp. 409-421.  Ibid.  Manouvrier, "L'internat des femmes" (Women’s internship), Revue rose, 1884, p. 594.  Dechambre, Gaz. hebd. med. chir., n°28, July 15, 1870 p. 433.  Sorrel-Dejerine, Yvonne "Centenaire de la naissance de Melle Klumpke" (The hundredth anniversary of Miss Klumpke’s birth), Association des femmes médecins, n°8, 1959. p. 14.  Constance, Joël, Les filles d'Esculape (The daughters of Esculapius), Paris: R. Laffont, 1988. p. 124.  Richelot, Gustave, La femme-médecin (Women doctors), Paris: E. Dentu, 1875. p.43 sqq.  Sarmiza-Bilcescu, Melle interviewed by Edmée Charrier, L'Évolution intellectuelle féminine, Paris: Mechelinck, 1931. p.157.  This idea is defended by Carole Lécuyer, Une nouvelle figure de la jeune fille sous la IIIe République : l'étudiante (A new category of young women under the Third Republic: students), CLIO, N°4-1996 [on-line]. Another testimony, pointing in the same direction, given by Charrier: anonymous testimony of the first female auditor at the Faculté de droit de Paris. Under Colmet d’Aage’s deanship, the faculty assembly gave the future female auditor permission to attend Professor Otrolan’s lectures, the latter having accepted to enforce order. The day after a long preparatory speech addressed to the students, the woman entered the amphitheater, accompanied by her two bodyguards: her husband and the University secretary. "When the lady came in, the students paid no attention to her: she sat down among them, took notes, and at the end of the lecture she left just like everybody else. (…) The husband soon stopped accompanying his wife, and the secretary followed suit and went back to his office. But an important experiment had been carried out, in which the students had demonstrated the best possible attitude (…)" See Charrier, Edmé, L'évolution intellectuelle féminine (The intellectual evolution of women), Paris: A. Mechelinck, 1901. pp. 176-178.  Ayrton, Mathilda, Recherches sur les dimensions en générales et sur le développement du corps chez les japonais (Research on the general dimensions and development of the body among the Japanese), PhD dissertation, imp. A. Parent, 1879.  Berladsky, Anastasie wrote: "À mon meilleur ami, mon mari" ("To my best friend: my husband"). Étude histologique sur la structure des artères (Histological study of the structure of arteries), PhD dissertation, imp. A. Parent, 1878.  Schultze, Caroline, La femme médecin au XIXème siècle siècle (Women doctors in the 19th century), Paris : Ollier-Henry, 1888. p. 76. (Conclusion).  Richelot, Gustave, La femme-médecin (Women doctors), Paris: E. Dentu, 1875. p. 28 et 43. Anonymous, "Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917)" [on-line] Consulted on December 15, 2006  Maitron, Jean, Dictionnaire biographique du mouvement ouvrier français (Biographical dictionary of the French working class movement) [electronic resource, CD Rom], article on Élie Reclus.  Kropotkine, Pierre, Autour d'une vie : mémoires d'un révolutionnaire. (Memoirs of a revolutionary) Brandès, G. pref. s. l. : s.n. s.d., [on line]. Consulted on September 20, 2006 .  Brès, Madeleine, De la mamelle et l'allaitement (On breast and breastfeeding), PhD dissertation, Paris: imp. A. Parent, 1875. 100 p.  Ribard, Franceline, Du Drainage de l'oeil dans différentes affections de l'oeil et particulièrement dans le décollement de la rétine (The drainage of the eye in various eye diseases and more particularly in retinal detachment). Paris: imp. A. Parent, 1876. 40 p.