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The Life and Mind of DamnBlackHeart
This is to help me stay actively writing. So expect to see rants, tips on writing, thoughts on subjects, me complaining of boredom, reviews, anime, movies, video games, conventions, tv shows and whatever life throws at me.
Anonymous Asked: Female Doctor in 1899 America
Anonymous asked: Would my female OC being a doctor in 1899 be a problem? Is it even possible? What would it be like for her? idk if this is relevant, but I’m working on RDR2 fic...


What we know of Red Dead Redemption 2 is that it’s set in 1899, and spans across five fictitious states of a fictionalized version of the United States. It is a work of fiction, so its representation of the US is not accurate to real life. However, there are some similarities or references to real-world locations like Roanoke Island or the Lemoyne settlements. Some characters and events are also based on real-life people. There’s even a couple of historically accurate details such as Tuberculosis, which was the number one reason for mortality in the 1890s that helped to make the game realistic.

Rockstar Games certainly put in a lot of effort into making this game as epic as possible. So from this we know that they modeled the game from our – the real world’s time period of the late 1800s. We can use this as a starting point in our research to figure out if a woman doctor would be possible, how she be able to be one, how she’ll be treated by her peers and the public, etc.

Keep in mind that women have been practicing medicine, both openly and secretly, since ancient times. The first record of a female doctor was probably Peseshet in 2400 B.C.E., the supervisor of all female doctors, but there may have been female doctors as early as 3000 B.C.E.

But to be specific to the 18th century – well, lets start with Elizabeth Blackwell. She was interested in medicine after a friend fell ill and remarked that, had a female doctor cared for her, she might not have suffered so much. Blackwell applied to many medical schools, but was rejected from each one. However, she got accepted into Geneva Medical College in western New York state.

The faculty, assuming that the all-male student body would never agree to a woman joining their ranks, allowed them to vote on her admission. As a joke, they voted “yes,” and she gained admittance, despite the reluctance of most students and faculty. Two years later, in 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to receive an M.D. degree from an American medical school.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell wasn’t the only women to practice medicine or to be recognized as a physician. Harriot Kezia Hunt (1805-1875), was an early female medical practitioner and women’s rights activist. She trained under Dr. Richard Dixon and Elizabeth Mott before opening her own consulting room, without a medical diploma in 1835. She practiced openly for about 20 years in Massachusetts and was the first woman to apply to Harvard Medical School in 1847. She was rejected, but was allowed to attend lectures at Harvard Medical School in 1850 and received an honorary M.D. from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1853.

In the years following Hunt’s application and rejection, other women continued to be denied as well. It wasn’t until 1945 that Harvard Medical School admitted its first class of women in a 10-year trial to measure productivity and accomplishment of women both during and after medical schooling. This class of women was admitted due to the decreased amount of qualified male applicants as a result of World War II.

By modern educational and credentialing standards, Dr. Blackwell is recognized as the first woman in the world to earn a regular M.D. degree from a regular or accredited medical school by means of satisfying the standard requirements of a full course of study.

It was only toward the end of the nineteenth century that female M.D. were more widely accepted. And even then, women physicians were still expected to provide only obstetrical, gynecological, pediatric, or public health services. They faced monumental difficulties and open hostility by their male colleagues. After all, society dictated that a division of labor should separate the proper roles of men and women into two rigidly distinct spheres, the woman’s being the home, where her function is the nurturer. She was seen as a weak and modest creature, whose moral sensibilities had to be protected from the evils of society.

So, back to your question and how does this information apply to your OC?

Well, it’s certainly possible for her to be a doctor in that time period, but it will not be an easy road for her to pursue. Trying to get into a medical school in the first place will involve at lot of rejection. She might never be able to get into one until much later in her life. If she does get accept and doesn’t hide the fact that she’s a woman, she will be faced with harassment and possibly sabotage by her male peers.

She could disguise herself as a men. That is what Margaret Ann Bulkley did to get into the University of Edinburgh Medical School in Scotland. She became Dr. James Barry in 1812 and remained known thus for the next 56 years. This “beardless lad” served as a British army surgeon across the Empire for many years. It was only on his death in 1865 of “diarrhoea” that the charwoman laying out his body discovered that James Barry was, in fact, biologically female. Dr. Barry was not the only one to cross-dress or take on a male persona in medical history.

Your OC could also go to an all women medical school, but that will depend on when you have your OC being born in the RDR2 world. There were only two medical schools that were founded around that time.

+ New England Female Medical College, Boston, founded in 1848.

+ Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (founded 1850 as Female Medical College of Pennsylvania)

However, your OC doesn’t need to go to university to be considered a physician. There’s the option of apprenticeship to a physician who can ignore the fact that she’s a woman. Either way, the public opinion (and especially with male physicians) on woman doctors is unfavorable. Some people viewed “woman physicians” as untrained female abortionists and use the term as a derogatory epithet. Others may see them as just glorified midwives.

People will be skeptical at the news that the OC is a doctor. But might be more accepting if she said she was a nurse. Most people will likely have the approach of needing to see her in action or experience it for themselves before they can believe that she’s an actual competent physician. Or, if they do believe her than they’ll expect her to specializes in the “softer” side of the medical field which deals with children and other women.

Once out of medical school, woman physicians encountered even more barriers. Internships, hospital staff privileges, and election to medical societies were particularly difficult to obtain. The OC best bet is to probably open her own clinic or hospital (gaining patients might be a bit of a struggle without the aid and support of partnered male physician). Or to work somewhere that’s less likely to have issues with her, such as a hospital.

+ Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia, founded in 1861, provided clinical experience for Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania students

Or maybe the OC enters into the field of private medical service? Basically be employed by individual patients primarily in their homes. This would be rare since not everyone would be able to afford it and even than they’re less likely to want a woman physician, unless the patients might’ve been a woman or children?

Also, around that time it was rare for African American women or men (which was even more rare) to be admitted to medical schools. The first African American woman to earn a medical degree in the United States was Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler. She was accepted into the New England Female Medical College in 1860 and graduated in 1864. She was subject to “intense racism” and sexism while practicing medicine.

I hope this has answered your question. I’ve also included links that go further into the topic about women in medicine in the 18th century, medical tools, medicine, and so on that I think will be helpful for your story too.

[Click Here To See My Original Post With The Links]

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