Women in Medicine in the United States: It began in Hammorton
by Chris Densmore
In 1846, Dr. Bartholomew Fussell, held a meeting in Hammorton to develop a plan for a
medical college for women. The idea was revolutionary. No woman had ever received
the M.D. degree. The proposal was in 1850 with the creation of the Female Medical
College of Philadelphia, the first school in the United States to offer the M.D. degree to
women. The meeting included Dr. Edwin Fussell, his nephew, Dr. Franklin Taylor, a
cousin and traveling companion to Bayard Taylor, Dr. Ezra Mitchener of London Grove,
Dr. Sylvester Birdsall and Dr. Ellwood Harvey. All were from Kennett and vicinity, and
most have been identified with strong connections to the Underground Railroad or the
Anti-Slavery Movement. Also present was Dr. Fussell’s sister-in-law, Graceanna Lewis.
Rebecca Lewis Fussell and Ann Preston were among the early graduates of the Medical
College. The meeting at Dr. Fussell’s home demonstrates the close relationship between
the anti-slavery movement, women’s rights and reform. The idea of women doctors was
at this time considered a radical reform. It also demonstrates the impact of the
reformers of Kennett Square and vicinity on American history.