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June 19, 1981

The Professional Identities of Women Physicians

JAMA. 1981;245(23):2419-2421. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03310480035023

THE ADMISSION gates are ajar for women now applying to medical school. In 1979-1980, 28% of all first-year medical students were women, a record-breaking number. To the undiscerning eye it may seem that the major obstacles to women entering the medical profession are vanishing. Unknown to many, however, the graduating classes of Boston medical schools in 1893-1894 comprised 23.7% women. This resulted in a peak of 18% women physicians of the total Boston medical community at the turn of the century, 1900-1901. Few may know of women's participation in the medical profession during that era, but most are keenly aware of the small numbers that followed and endured. During the post-World War II period, the number of all women graduates lingered at 5%.1

History has a way of repeating itself, and the fact that medical schools have now accepted an unprecedented number of women students does not signify the