Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842–1906)

Author of Life and letters of Mary Putnam Jacobi

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Mary Corinna Putnam was born in London, the oldest of 11 children of American parents. They were living there while her father George opened a branch of his American publishing house G.P. Putnam's Sons. The family returned to the USA in 1848, and she grew up in New York City. She received  most of her early education at home and then attended a new public school for girls on 12th Street, where she graduated in 1859. She published her first story, "Found and Lost," in the April 1860 issue of Atlantic Monthly, and a year later published another. After high school, she studied Greek, science, and medicine privately with Elizabeth Blackwell and others. She graduated from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1863 and earned her medical degree from the Female (later Women's) Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1864. She went to France to apply to the École de Médecine of the University of Paris for further study. She was finally admitted as the first woman student and graduated in 1871. Her studies in Paris coincided with the Franco-Prussian War, and she wrote an account of the politics of the day for Scribner's Monthly, the first of many articles. She returned to the USA and established a medical practice in New York City, becoming only the second woman member of the Medical Society of the County of New York. She was appointed a professor at 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. In 1873, she married Dr. Abraham Jacobi, often referred to as the "father of American pediatrics." They had three children, only one of whom survived to adulthood. Dr. Mary Jacobi wrote 9 works of fiction and more than 120 scientific papers. In response to Dr. Edward H. Clarke's publication, "Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for the Girls" (1875), which questioned the expanded role of women in society and the professions, Dr. Jacobi provided data tables, statistics, and sphygmographic tracings of pulse rate, force, and variations to illustrate the stability of a woman's health, strength, and agility throughout her monthly cycle. Despite great controversy surrounding it, Dr. Jacobi's paper was awarded Harvard Medical School's esteemed Boylston Medical Prize in 1876. She opened a children's ward at the New York Infirmary in 1886. In 1872, she became the first female member of the New York Academy of Medicine by a majority of one vote.
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