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Women's Health History: A Timeline

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Since the beginning of recorded history, women have wanted to be an equal part of it. From ancient transcriptions before the common era to present day, women have worked both behind the scenes and on the front lines to further build the bridge to equality.

This Women's History Month, we will be focusing on Women's Health History; a turbulent and struggle-ridden past from the perspective of women within the medical field as well as female patients fighting for fairness in healthcare.

We will be following the timeline of the very first recorded instance of a woman practicing medicine, the rise of women being admitted to prestigious medical colleges, the creation of law to eliminate gender discrimination within education, the exclusion and inclusion of women in clinical research, the disparities in healthcare today and the future of medicine as defined by modern physicians.

Come with us on our journey through The Beginning, Women's Exclusion, Women's Inclusion and The Future of Medicine.


2700 BCE – Miet Ptah First female chief physician of the Egyptian Royal Court

2600 BCE – Pseshet First woman to be referred to as a doctor, and earned the title of 'Lady Overseer of the Female Physicians'

200-400 CE – Metrodora Penned the oldest book of medicine written by a woman, "On the Diseases and Cures of Women"

1098 CE – Hildegard of Bingen Created and recorded multiple cures to women's diseases and created the foundations of compound medicine

11th-12th CE – Tortula of Salerno First female professor of medicine and author of "On the Treatments of Women"

1390 CE – Dorotea of Bucca Succeeded her father as professor of medicine at the University of Bologna and taught for 40 years

1849 – Elizabeth Blackwell First woman in the United States to earn a medical degree

1853 – Harriot Hunt First woman to attempt to go to an Ivy League medical school

1864 – Rebecca Lee Crumpler First African American woman in the United States to earn a medical degree

1951 – Mildred Jefferson First African American woman to graduate from Ivy League medical school

1950-60 – Thalidomide/ Thalidomide tragedies Sedative used to cure nausea in pregnant women causes 10,000 babies to be born with severe birth defects

1972 – Title IX Policy outlawing any discrimination based on sex within any institution of education receiving federal funding

1975 – Public Service Act of 1975 Policy banning all sex discrimination in government funded educational institutions


1977 - "General Considerations for the Clinical Evaluation of Drugs" Policy released by the NIH suggesting the exclusion of all women of childbearing ability from Phase I and II clinical studies

1990 – GAO suggests audit of NIH Inclusivity Guidelines Investigation of the NIH to find if research institutions followed a memorandum released about the importance of including women and minorities in clinical research

1990 – ORWH Founded Office of Research on Women's Health is founded to ensure the NIH holds research institutions accountable for inclusion

1991 – Women's Health Initiative Begins Dr. Bernadine Healy heads the WHI, a set of clinical trials on women's diseases that enrolled 150,000 women over the course of 15 years

1993 – 1977 decision reversed NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 includes the addition of the 'Women and Minorities as Subjects in Clinical Research'


1994 – Public Law 103-43 compliance required From them on, NIH would not fund any grant, cooperative agreement, or contract or support any intramural project if it did not comply with NIH Revitalization Act of 1993

1998 - "Presentation of Safety and Effectiveness of Data" Regulations listed for the safe collection of medical study data on certain underserved groups such as women and minorities

2000-2020 – Women underrepresented in studies of cardiology, oncology, neurology, immunology and hematology Study done by the University of Chicago and University of California, Berkely uncovers a large gender disparity in clinical data

2021 – Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is disproved to cause reproductive issues in women 50 and under Clinical data availability for men versus women is still largely different

As you can see, women have endured a tumultuous history both from physician and patient perspective. This March, follow along with us in bringing the injustices faced and resilience shown to light.



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