Online Exhibits@Yale

Women Faculty in the 1940s-1960s

A few women faculty members, held so long at low rank, finally became full professors in the 1960s.  In 1961 Dorothy Horstmann become the first woman to hold the rank of full professor at Yale. She was followed in 1967 by Sally Provence.  Earlier, in 1949, Edith Jackson was given the rank of clinical professor. Others, like Sophia Simmonds who had been at Yale for decades became full professors in the 1970s.  This section looks at several women faculty members whose careers at Yale began or flourished in the 1940s to 1960s. 

Sofia Simmonds

Sofia Simmonds (1917-2007), Department of Biochemistry

Biochemist Sofia Simmonds was an example of a highly-qualified woman who came to Yale in 1945 because her husband, Joseph Fruton, was invited to become Associate Professor of Physiological Chemistry (biochemistry).  Fruton became full professor in 1950 and chairman of the department in 1951. Simmonds had received her Ph.D. in biochemistry at Cornell in 1942, working in the laboratory of Nobel-prize winner Vincent du Vigneaud.  She was able to get a position in biochemistry at Yale, but with the typical rank for a woman, that of research assistant. It took until 1954 for her to become an associate professor. She was denied full professorship in 1966 and only achieved the rank in 1975.  Simmonds pursued research interests separately from Fruton, studying amino acid metabolism and peptide metabolism in E. coli, and co-authored with Fruton two editions of a comprehensive and influential textbook, General Biochemistry (1953, 1958).  In 1969 she was awarded the Garvan medal for women chemists from the American Chemical Society. For many years she was the director of undergraduate studies for the department (by then Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) and in 1988, she served associate dean of Yale College.

Dorothy Horstmann

Dorothy Horstmann (1922-2001), Epidemiology and Public Health

In 1961, Dorothy M. Horstmann became the first woman to achieve the rank of full professor at the Yale School of Medicine. In 1969, she became the first woman to be named to an endowed professorship, the John Rodman Paul Professor of Epidemiology and Pediatrics, named after her mentor.  Despite her impressive career as an epidemiologist, it took her nearly twenty years to become a full professor.  Horstmann received her medical degree from the University of California San Francisco in 1940.  She arrived at Yale in 1942 as a Commonwealth Fellow in the Section of Preventive Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine. After another year at UCSF, she joined the faculty at Yale as in instructor and became a member of the Poliomyelitis Study Section led by John R. Paul.  Her research focused on epidemiology of infectious diseases, especially viral diseases like poliomyelitis and rubella.  Her most important discovery, announced in 1952, was that the polio virus spread in the blood of monkeys during the incubation period of the disease, but not later. (It had been previously thought that the virus spread through the nervous system, rather than the blood.) Horstmann’s research made possible the interception of the virus by a vaccine that stimulated antibodies in the bloodstream. Horstmann carried out numerous field studies on infectious diseases. In 1959, she travelled to the USSR for WHO to evaluate a mass polio vaccination with the Sabin vaccine. She was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences and received the 1990 alumnus award of UCSF for outstanding achievement. 

Edith Jackson and Rooming In

Edith B. Jackson (1895-1977), Department of Pediatrics

Edith B. Jackson, best known or her leadership of the pioneering Rooming-in project at Grace-New Haven Hospital, received her M.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1921.  After an internship and residency in pediatrics at Iowa University and at Bellevue Hospital, she was invited to Yale in 1923 as an Assistant in the Department of Pediatrics, to work on the rickets project funded by the U.S. Children’s Bureau. She and Martha Eliot carried out a field study on the prevention of rickets in Puerto Rico.  Jackson left Yale in 1929 and obtained training in psychiatry and psychoanalysis at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. and then in Vienna. She underwent psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud from 1930 to 1936.  When she returned to Yale, she directed the Child Welfare Research Unit of the Department of Pediatrics which handled referrals of children for psychiatric problems. Jackson had long believed that the care of mothers and infants in the hospital was too rigid and impersonal. Grover Powers, the chairman of the department, was convinced by Jackson to raise funds for a study of Rooming-in. The funds paid for pediatric Rooming-in fellows, nurses, and a social worker.  Edith Jackson directed this project from 1946 to 1953.  Mothers had the option of keeping their infants in their room instead of in the hospital nursery. The project included contact with both parents during the prenatal period and follow-up visits.  Jackson held the title of Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry from 1949 until her retirement in 1959. She received two major awards, the McGavin Award from the American Psychiatric Association in 1964 and the Aldrich Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1968.

Ruth Whittemore

Ruth Whittemore (1917-2001), Department of Pediatrics

Ruth Whittemore was a pioneer at Yale in the new field of pediatric cardiology. A graduate of Johns Hopkins Medical School, she first came to Yale as an intern and resident in pediatrics in 1942-1944.  At Johns Hopkins, where she continued her training, she served as Helen B. Taussig’s senior fellow and first assistant. She was part of the team that performed the first “blue baby” operation in 1944. In 1947, she was invited to return to the Department of Pediatrics at Yale as the director of the first pediatric rheumatic fever and cardiac clinic in New England.  This diagnostic clinic in the Grace-New Haven Hospital was supported by local city, state, and national public health agencies. As rheumatic fever declined, Whittemore focused her practice, clinics, and research on congenital heart defects in children. She forged ties with the Department of Surgery at Yale and worked closely with William W. L. Glenn, professor of cardio-thoracic surgery. She evaluated children for congenital cardiac abnormalities, and if they required surgery, she provided the cardiac care before and after. Her most significant research contribution was a long-term study of her former cardiac patients to determine the incidence of cardiac anomalies in the next generation. Through her clinics, she trained cardiac fellows at Yale who became leading pediatric cardiologists. Whittemore became Clinical Professor of Pediatrics in 1966.  She was one of the first pediatricians to be certified by the American Board of Pediatric Cardiology. Mount Holyoke, her undergraduate alma mater, awarded her an honorary degree.

G. D. Hsiung

G. D. (Edith) Hsiung (1918-2006), Department Laboratory Medicine

Gueh Djen (Edith) Hsiung (1918-2006) was a pioneer in establishing the field of diagnostic virology.  Born in China, Hsiung moved to the United States after the war and obtained her Ph.D. in microbiology at Michigan State University.  She arrived at Yale in 1953, initially as a postdoctoral student working with Dr. Joseph Melnick on poliovirus and related enteroviruses. In 1960, she was appointed the first director of the Virology Laboratory at Grace-New Haven Hospital.  At that point she was a member of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.  After spending 1965 to 1967 as chief of the Virology Laboratory at the VA Hospital in New York City, she returned to the New Haven area in 1967, having been appointed chief of the Virology Laboratory at the VA Medical Center in West Haven.  She was a salaried employee of the VA for the remainder of her career, but she also taught medical students and post-doctorates at Yale as a member of the Department of Laboratory Medicine. She became a full professor in 1974.  The first of four editions of her textbook, Diagnostic Virology, appeared in 1964.  As a result of her initiatives, the national Virology Reference Laboratory of the Veterans Administration was founded in 1985 at the VA Medical Center in West Haven and she became its first director. Through her intensive diagnostic virology courses and workshops in the United States and in Taiwan, she trained generations of researchers. Hsiung received many awards, among them the Becton-Dickinson Award from the American Society for Microbiology in 1983 and an honorary degree from Michigan State University.

Sally Provence

Sally Ann Provence (1916-1993), Child Study Center

A native of Texas, Sally Provence received her M.D. from Baylor University College of Medicine in 1941. She went to Cornell-New York Hospital to learn new methods of pediatric psychology. It was there that she met Milton Senn. She also trained briefly at the Yale with Arnold Gesell. After Senn became Director of the Child Study Center, he invited Provence to Yale in 1949. She remained as an instructor and assistant professor until 1963, when she was advanced to associate professor, and then to full professor in 1967.  From 1951 to her retirement in 1986, she headed the Child Development Unit of the Child Study Center.  Her research documented the emotional disorders of disadvantaged infants and led her to become a passionate advocate for children and their families. She was the author of Infants in Institutions (1962), Modern Perspectives in Child Development (1963), Guide for the Care of Infants in Groups (1967), and Working with Disadvantaged Parents and Their Children (1983). Provence received the Aldrich Award of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1975. Briefly married at the start of her career, she was survived by a long-time partner and co-worker, Audrey Naylor.

Department of Medicine, 1968

Department of Medicine, 1968

Departments expanded enormously with the inclusion of more clinical faculty and more faculty dependent on research grants.  There were hardly any women in this huge department in 1968.

Yale School of Medicine, Department of Surgery, 1968

Department of Surgery, 1968

The Department of Surgery was especially inhospitable to women residents and faculty members.

Women Faculty in the 1940s-1960s