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Celebrating the Philanthropy of



Champion of Women in Medicine

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The Mary Elizabeth Garrett Fund

 

After the gift of the Women’s Medical School Fund, the Trustees were to find the additional money needed to complete the endowment, estimated at $221,219.58 at the time of the contribution. The women gave them until February 1, 1892 to obtain this amount before they would withdraw their subscriptions.1 However, by December these funds had not been raised, and the estimated sum had been increased to $306,977.

On December 22, Mary Elizabeth wrote to the Board of Trustees announcing her intention to complete the Medical School Endowment. On Christmas Eve, the Trustees gathered at the home of C. J. M. Gwinn and voted to accept her offer. Her gift, to the chagrin of some at Johns Hopkins, included more stringent conditions than the original gift of the Women’s Medical Fund.

Over the following six weeks, intense negotiations over the terms of Garrett’s gift ensued. In addition to reiterating the importance of admitting women on the same terms as men, Mary Elizabeth Garrett set further conditions to ensure that the Medical School would be only a graduate school and that it would observe high admission standards. She declared that “all the instructions given in the School shall pre-suppose the knowledge at present required for matriculation in your University and the knowledge imparted in the Preliminary Medical Course.”2 She also designed “a committee of six women, to whom the women studying in the Medical School may apply for advice . . . and that all questions concerning the personal character of women . . . shall be referred to this Committee.”3 Her final stipulation warned the Board that “in the event of any violation of any or all of the aforesaid stipulations, the said sum of $306,977 shall revert to [her].”4

Negotiations

Mary Elizabeth Garrett was not the only person concerned with the state of medical education. Rather, the faculty and Trustees had also expressed their desire to make Hopkins an American example of the excellent European medical education. However, when presented with the obligation to practice these ideas, some of the faculty balked. According to Dr. Welch, Garrett had assumed that the idea expressed about improving medical education was exactly what we wanted. It is one thing to build an educational castle in the air at your library table, and another to face its actual appearance under the existing circumstance. We were alarmed, and wondered if any students would come or could meet the conditions...5

In fact, William Osler once commented to William Welch that they were lucky to be professors, for they surely could not be admitted as students.6

Gilman was concerned not only that few students would meet Garrett’s qualifications, but that the Trustees would be bound to adhere to the current curriculum of the college’s preliminary medical program and unable to effect changes as the medical sciences advanced. In his letter, he pointed out that “the phrases ‘Chemical-Biological,’ ‘Group iii’ and ‘Preliminary Medical’ employed in our Register are not elsewhere in vogue, [so] they may not be generally understood."7 Furthermore, Gilman argued that the matriculation examinations and course of studies prescribed in 1892 were likely to change as knowledge and educational methods improved. It was therefore important that the terms of Garrett’s gift not restrict future Trustees from making adjustments. Gilman worried that “by the phraseology now employed [the Trustees] may be exposed to embarrassing controversies, if not to annoying litigation, in the future."8

Despite his concerns, William Welch wrote in support of the strict admission requirements. He made the case that we can take the lead in a great reform of medical education, not only in this country but in others, by insisting upon this thorough preliminary training in certain natural and physical sciences which lie at the foundation of medical science. The number of students will not be large at first, if we insist upon this training, but in the end I think this policy will greatly increase not only the reputation, but the prosperity of the medical school . . . As we shall hardly be supplied during our first year or two with the full equipment in buildings and teaching staff which we shall soon require, it will not be disadvantageous to being with a small number of students.9

The issue, then, became the clarification of language used in the terms of Garrett’s gift. The Trustees commissioned Welch to ask Garrett to modify her standards, which she refused to do.

In response to the fears expressed by the Hopkins faculty, Garrett wrote them a letter explaining the reasons for defining the admissions requirements as she had. She explained that she specified the Chemical-Biological course because she had reason to suppose, from its frequent publication during the past eleven years in the University circulars that it met with the entire approval of your Board and the Faculty of the university. It also recommended itself to my judgment because upon examination I found the standard thus set by you was closely analogous to that created in foreign Universities most distinguished for advanced systems of medical education.10

Thus Garrett held the Trustees accountable for their own vows to model the school on the best foreign universities. She goes on to assuage their concerns about autonomy, asserting that “No attempt has been made in my letter to confine you for all time to the matriculation requirements and the preliminary medical course now indicated in your register. By that letter you were on the contrary, expressly left at liberty to change those requirements from time to time."11 Garrett refused to relent on her high standards, ending the letter by commanding that “the proficiency now required in modern languages other than English and in the purely natural sciences that form part of a liberal education shall not be lessened."12

After this clarification, Welch wrote a draft of the requirements for admission to the Medical School, which were adopted by the Medical Faculty on 4 February 1893. These were sent to Garrett for her approval. The legalistic nature of her response suggests that she was counseled, probably by C. J. M. Gwinn, and that neither she nor the Trustees were willing to leave the interpretation of her conditions to chance. She expressed her consent for the draft, on the condition that the term “approved” (as in “requirements approved by the Medical Faculty”) be understood as “those colleges or scientific schools only whose requirements for matriculation and whose requirements for graduation, taken together, shall be held by the university to be equivalent in standard and in general training to the requirements for its BA degree”13

By this time, tensions must have been high. Gilman wrote two days later to C. Morton Stewart that [t]he affair seems to me so entangled that the only relief will be in a distant recognition by all parties of this fundamental principle, namely: The univ. reserves to itself the exclusive right to determine on what conditions students may be admitted, discharged, & graduated. I do not know any institution of good standing in which this principle is not established.14

Others must also have felt this hesitancy. Both the Medical Faculty and Academic Council resolved that “this university should reserve to itself the exclusive right to determine on what conditions students shall be admitted to or graduated in . . . and the right to change these conditions from time to time."15

On 15 February, Garrett sent another letter, further modifying the terms of her gift. The modifications emphasized that the terms of her gift would not interfere with the operation of the University. She granted the right to the University “to make such changes in the requirements for admission . . . or to accept such equivalents . . . as shall not lower the standard of admission.”16 An additional paragraph was added, stating that “it will be observed that by the tenor of these terms no university course will be in any way modified by any conditions attached to my gift.”17

The close familial and social connections between the women and the Board of Trustees are evidenced again by Garrett’s signature on this letter. Rather than actually signing it, she sent a telegram to C. J. M. Gwinn, essentially authorizing him to sign a letter to himself.18

Finally, on 20 February, Garrett signed the Requirements for Admission. She struck only the word “now,” and signed “the aforegoing statement and terms are fully approved by me, Mary E. Garrett. Feb. 20, 1893. 9:30 am.” Gwinn also signed as witness.19

It is interesting to note that the question of admitting women was not discussed during the negotiations. Participants seem to have accepted the prior decision in regard to the Women’s Medical Fund gift, and did not try to challenge it again.


Terms Of Miss Garrett's Gift. The Johns Hopkins Medical School Announcement for 1893-94. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1894. Page one, page two, page three.


Medical Education



References

1
Report of the Women’s Fund for the Medical School of the Johns Hopkins University. Founding Documents. Presented 2nd May 1891. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

2
Mary Elizabeth Garrett. Letter to the President and Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University. 22 December 1892. Mary Elizabeth Garrett papers. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

3 ibid.

4ibid.

5 Harvey Cushing. The Life of Sir William Osler, 2 vols. London: Oxford University Press, 1925, 1: 387-88.

6 William H. Welch. “Address at the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1889-1914.” The Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin, 25 (1914): 365.

7Daniel Coit Gilman. Remarks addressed to the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University. 3 January 1893. Founding Documents. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore

8ibid.

9William H. Welch. Memorandum. 9 January 1893. Founding Documents. Alan
M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

10Mary Elizabeth Garrett. Letter to the President and Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University. 30 January 1893. Founding Documents. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

11ibid.

12ibid.

13Mary Elizabeth Garrett. Letter to the President of the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University. 6 February 1893. Founding Documents. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

14Daniel Coit Gilman. Letter to C. Morton Stewart. 8 February 1893. Founding
Documents, Women’s Medical Fund box, folder 14. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

15Resolution passed by the Academic Council. Resolution passed by the Medical Faculty. 13 February 1893. Founding Documents. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

16Mary Elizabeth Garrett. Letter to the Board of Trustees of the Johns Hopkins University. 15 February 1893. Founding Documents. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

17 ibid.

18Mary Elizabeth Garrett. Telegram to Charles Gwinn. 15 February 1893. Founding Documents. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

19Requirements for Admission. Founding Documents. Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore.

Medical Education