Mary Putnam Jacobi

Biography of Mary Putnam Jacobi

Mary Corinna Putnam (August 31, 1842 – June 10, 1906) was an American physician, writer, and suffragist who was the first woman admitted to the Faculté de Médecine de Paris.

The daughter of George Palmer Putnam and Victorine Haven Putnam, she was born in London, where her father had been living since 1841 while establishing a branch office for his New York City publishing company, Wiley & Putnam. She was the oldest of eleven children.

Mary Putnam's parents returned to the United States in 1848, and she spent her childhood and adolescence in New York City. She got most of her early education at home along with two years at a new public school for girls on 12th Street where she graduated in 1859. She published a story, "Found and Lost," in the April 1860 issue of Atlantic Monthly, and a year later she published another. After her 1859 graduation, she studied Greek, and science, and medicine privately with Elizabeth Blackwell and others. Her father thought medicine a "repulsive" profession, but ultimately supported her endeavor.

She graduated from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1863 and earned her M.D. from the Female (later Women's) Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1864. A short internship at New England Hospital for Women and Children showed her she needed further study before practicing medicine. She left for Paris, France where she applied to the École de Médecine of the University of Paris. After much negotiation, she was admitted as the first woman student. She graduated in July 1871, the second woman to get a degree there, and received second prize for her thesis.

Her studies in Paris coincided with the Franco-Prussian War. In Scribner's Monthly of August 1871, she published an account of the new French political leadership that came to power following the war.

After returning to the United States in the fall of 1871, she established a medical practice in New York City, became the second woman member of the Medical Society of the County of New York, was admitted to the American Medical Association, and became a professor in the new Woman's Medical College of the New York Infirmary. In 1872 she organized the Association for the Advancement of the Medical Education of Women and served as its president from 1874 to 1903. Her teaching at the Medical College tended to exceed what her students were prepared for and led her to resign in 1888.

She received Harvard University's Boylston Prize in 1876 for an original essay, The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation. In 1891 she contributed a paper on the history of women physicians in the United States to the volume Women's Work in America that included a bibliography of writings by American female physicians that mentioned over forty of her own works.

In 1873, Mary Putnam married Dr. Abraham Jacobi who is often referred to as the "father of American pediatrics." They had three children, though only one survived to adulthood, Marjorie Jacobi McAneny. She educated her daughter herself according to her own educational theories.

She wrote more than 100 medical papers. She stopped writing fiction in 1871.

She died in New York City on June 10, 1906.

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