Women Making History: Mary Putnam Jacobi

Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi was a female pioneer in medical history. Throughout her life, she raised awareness for women’s education, produced many articles, and became a well-respected scientist of her time.

Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi, born Mary Putnam, was born in London, England on August 31, 1842. Her parents, George and Victorine Putnam, were American, and they returned to the United States in 1848. She spent her young life growing up in New York and graduated high school in 1859.

She wanted to further her education in medicine, despite her father’s opinion of women not practicing medicine. She attended the New York College of Pharmacy and graduated from there in 1863. She received her M.D. from the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1864. She then moved to Boston to study medicine at the New England Hospital for Women and Children.

Since, Mary Putnam was not happy with her education in America, she moved to Paris, where she became the was one of the first female students at the Ecole de Medecine and graduated in 1871. She received a bronze medal for her thesis and moved back to the United States in 1871. Once in New York, she combined private clinical practice and teaching at the New York Infirmary and Mount Sinai Hospital. She was the first woman to gain admission to many different medical societies.

During this time, Putnam supported the idea of both women and men training together to learn medicine, stating that the women’s institutes did not prepare them to practice medicine enough. Through her lecturing at different institutes, she raised the educational standards towards women.

In 1863, Mary Putnam married Dr. Abraham Jacobi, who is referred to as the “father of American pediatrics.” After her marriage, Mary Putnam Jacobi continued her career with both lecturing at different medical school and working as a consultant physician, where she opened a children’s ward in the New York Infirmary in 1886. With her ability to diagnose and continue to push for educational rights between men and women, she is considered one of American’s great physicians.

During her time practicing medicine, she joined many different medical associations, where she became the first woman to belong to the New York Academy of Medicine. She also became the second woman member of the Medical Society of the County of New York. She also belonged to the American Medical Association.

During this time of her practicing medicine, Mary Putnam Jacobi continued to publish articles of many different women’s health issues. Jacobi’s essay, “The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation,” won her the Boylston Prize at Harvard. This essay was a reply to another doctor’s article, who questioned the role of woman in society and professions. Dr. Jacobi’s essay provided statistics and illustrated how a woman could contribute to her role in society during her cycle. One of her last articles written was a detailed description of her brain tumor titled “Description of the Early Symptoms of the Meningeal Tumor Compressing the Cerebellum,” which eventually killed her on June 10. 1906.




“Changing the Face of Medicine| Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 3 June 2015, cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_163.html.Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.

“Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906).” Open Collections Program: Women Working, Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906), ocp.hul.harvard.edu/ww/Jacobi.html. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.

MacLean, Maggie. “Maggie MacLean.” Civil War Women, 26 June 2015, www.civilwarwomenblog.com/mary-putnam-jacobi/. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017

Source of Photo: “August 31: Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi| Green-Wood.” GreenWood, www.green-wood.com/2013/august-31-mary-corinna-putnam-jacobi/. Accessed 1 Oct. 2017.