San Francisco Marin Medical Society Blog

SFMMS 150th: 1877 - Recognizing the Contributions of Women Physicians

Though organized medicine had been slow to recognize the contributions of female physicians, in 1877, following the leads of the state and national medical societies, the San Francisco Medical Society accepted the first woman into its membership – Dr. Lucy Field Wanzer.

Dr. Wanzer was the first woman to graduate from UCSF, in 1876. Her private practice, in a series of downtown San Francisco offices, focused on obstetrics and gynecology, and she was also a practicing pediatrician. She continued to practice into her 80s.

The contributions of women physicians further became clear when Dr. Charlotte Blake Brown and Dr. Martha Bucknell and other women members of the medical society, including Dr. Wanzer, joined together to lay the foundation for the Pacific Dispensary for Women & Children, which became San Francisco Hospital for Children in 1878. It was one of the largest hospitals devoted entirely to women and children patients, with a governing board of women, and an administration and staff largely of women. It was also the first hospital to offer internships and residency training to women physicians in the West.

It wouldn't be until 1937 that the Marin Medical Society elected its first female president of the medical society, Dr. Ann Brady, and not until 1960 that the San Francisco Medical Society elected its first woman president, Dr. Roberta Fenlon. Collectively, the Marin and San Francisco medical societies have had 14 female presidents.


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