Celebrating Women in Pharmacy: Elizabeth Marshall (1768-1826)

EMSpecial Note: During the Month of March, Women’s History Month, we will be highlighting women in pharmacy (past and present) who have contributed significantly to the profession.

One of the first female pharmacists in the United States, Elizabeth Marshall, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1768. Many people credit her with being the very first female pharmacist in the United States. In reality, that title actually belongs to Elizabeth Gooking Greenleaf. However, while she may not have been the first American female pharmacist, Elizabeth Marshall was most certainly the second and was no doubt a hugely important figure for both women in the Pharmacy profession and for Pharmacy history in general.

Elizabeth Marshall’s father, Charles Marshall, as well as his father Christopher Marshall before him were both well-known pharmacists in Philadelphia at the time. Christopher Marshall’s apothecary shop was said to be the most complete outside of New York City. This distinction led to him being commissioned to look after the needs of the sick and wounded in the hospitals of Philadelphia. Charles Marshall not only took over the business from his father after his retirement but also went on to become the first president of the Philadelphia College of Apothecaries after it was founded in 1821, despite his old age. He was 77 at the time.

With such important family ties to pharmacy and medicine, it should then come as no surprise that Elizabeth too would follow into the family business. Elizabeth Marshall first started her career as a pharmacist as an apprentice in her family’s drugstore, a position in which she worked until 1805 when she finally took ownership over the store that her grandfather had founded over seventy years earlier. Under Elizabeth’s new management, the store’s business increased greatly and she was able to bring the shop out of its recent bankruptcy and restore it back into a sound financial success. It is very likely that she was the first woman in Philadelphia to have a successful commercial career, especially one of such an extensive scale.

EMAElizabeth would continue to run the store for two decades where several of Philadelphia’s most famous pharmacists would begin their careers working as apprentices under her guidance and leadership. In 1825 she finally sold ownership of the business to two of the stores apprentices, Charles Ellis and Isaac P. Morris.

The Marshall family name, along with their drugstore, are very significant pieces of pharmacy history. Elizabeth’s grandfather, Christopher Marshall, is the subject of one of the paintings in the Great Moments in Pharmacy series by historical illustrator Robert Thom. In it, Christopher can be seen showing his to sons, Elizabeth’s father and uncle, the art of manufacturing pills. And in 2012 Elizabeth Marshall, along with 16 other women pharmacist pioneers, was pictured on the wall of the Women in Pharmacy Exhibit and Conference Room at the APhA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Today, women make up over half of all of the pharmacists in the United States. This would not have been possible if it weren’t for women like Elizabeth Marshall who will always be remembered for her contributions to the profession and advancement of women in pharmacy.


Achievements of women in pharmacy lauded at foundation dedication. (2012, November 1). Retrieved September 19, 2015, from: http://www.pharmacist.com/node/85850

Beringer, G.M. (Ed). (1921, Janurary). A record of the progress of pharmacy and the allied sciences. American Journal of Pharmacy, 93, 87-89. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?id=QT0fAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA89&lpg=PA89&dq=elizabeth+marshall+pharmacist&source=bl&ots=GxRb677C_m&sig=FZ4lSNt5uh4uxwF2cBtYjiPdlmk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CFwQ6AEwDGoVChMImIWUh9eDyAIVjEGSCh2X0gcH#v=onepage&q&f=false

Thom, R. (n.d.) The marshall apothecary. [Picture]. Retrieved September 20, 2015, from: http://www.lewis-clark.org/article/2565

Women in pharmacy. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2015, from: http://www.aphafoundation.org/sites/default/files/ckeditor/files/WIP%20mural%20descriptions.pdf

Contributed by: Ryan Nolan, P2, Class of 2018

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