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Books, Journals, New Media
September 19, 2001

HistoryOut of the Dead House: Nineteenth-Century Women Physicians and the Writing of Medicine

Author Affiliations
 

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media

 

Not Available

 

by Susan Wells, 312 pp, with illus, paper, $22.95, ISBN 0-299-17174-4, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.

JAMA. 2001;286(11):1383-1384. doi:10.1001/jama.286.11.1383-JBK0919-2-1

Out of the Dead House uses the medical writings of women physicians from the second half of the 19th century to discuss the ways in which women's presence in the medical community shaped and was shaped by the scientific discourse.

The title comes from the story of Marie Zakrzewska who as a child was accidentally locked inside a Berlin hospital's morgue and pathology laboratory. An innocent 10-year-old thrust into a place of mystery and death—this was a scenario suited to the gothic horror novels of the times. But instead of screaming for help or collapsing in terror, Wells' young heroine gazed with fascination at the corpses for hours before peacefully falling asleep on the mortuary floor. Zakrzewska later emigrated to the United States and became a physician. Her story is an allegory of the experiences of many of the 19th-century women Wells examines. Medical training enabled these female physicians to enter a scientific world whose professional discourse and conduct were personified as male.

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