Honoring The Past: The First Female Pharmacists


Susan Hayhurst

March is Women’s History Month. At the University of Charleston School of Pharmacy we want to mark this month by recognizing and honoring the many women  that have contributed to the success and advancement of the pharmacy profession.

According to the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf is recognized as the first female pharmacists in America. She owned an apothecary shop in Boston in 1727.  She was married to Reverend Daniel Gooking, a Harvard graduate. He was a minister, physician, and apothecary. Elizabeth was the mother of 12 children. It is believed she assisted her husband in the preparation of medicines for his patients.

Other sources credit Susan Hayhurst as the first female pharmacist in the United States. After graduating from the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia in 1857, Susan Hayhurst served on the College’s staff and ran its pharmaceutical department for many years. In 1883, at the age of 63, Hayhurst became the first woman to graduate from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

Archives at Bowling Green State University share the story of another notable female pharmacist, Ella Stewart (born in Stringtown, West Virginia). Stewart wished to attend the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Pharmacy but was met with discrimination when she was told admissions were closed. She persisted however, and although segregated from other students, she graduated with high marks passing her state exam in 1916, to become the first licensed African-American female pharmacist in Pennsylvania and one of the earliest practicing African-American female pharmacists in the country.

Today women are well represented in the profession. “The position of pharmacist is probably the most egalitarian of all U.S. professions today,” Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz wrote in a paper published in September 2012(and quoted in CNN Money, February 11, 2013). In fact, women make up slightly more than 50% of all full-time pharmacists, according to 2011 Census data. Women make up approximately 55% of the profession (CNN Money, February 11, 2014).

The success of women pharmacists today can in many ways be credited to the women in our past. These women were instrumental in not only increasing female pharmacist representation but also with advancing the profession.

Have a story about a groundbreaking female pharmacist you’d like to share or see featured on our blog in the future? Email us at: pharmacy@ucwv.edu.

One thought on “Honoring The Past: The First Female Pharmacists

  1. Pingback: Who was the first woman pharmacist in America – 1800's – 1980's Old Drugstores of Pensacola

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