Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. papers
Held at: Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D., also known as “Dr. Jessie,” was an internationally recognized physician and early pioneer of birth control legislation and family planning [active] from the 1930s until the early 1970s. She was born May 5, 1898 in Detroit, Michigan and graduated from Reed College in 1920 with an A.B. in biology. She earned her Master’s degree from the University of Oregon in 1925 and her M.D. from the then University of Oregon Medical School in 1928.
From 1930 to 1960 Brodie ran a private practice from her home in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Walter Brodie, who she married in 1921. She specialized in pediatrics, gynecology, and marriage counseling. Brodie was also a part-time physician for the Portland Public Schools from 1930 to 1940 as well as a physician to women students at Reed College from 1930 to 1956.
It was during these early years of her career that Brodie took a leadership role in family planning and contraception, focusing at first on Oregon legislation and eventually turning her eye to Latin America. Thanks to her work, the Planned Parenthood Association of Oregon became a reality in 1963. Brodie was the executive medical director from 1965 to 1967.
In 1947 Brodie was a founding member of the Pan American Medical Women’s Alliance (PAMWA). Through PAMWA Brodie worked to “provide an opportunity for medical women of all the republics of the Western Hemisphere to exchange scientific knowledge; to discuss medical-social problems of special significance to women and children; and to forge links of friendship, mutual help, and understanding among the women physicians of the Americas” (Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D, “Dr. Jessie:” The Odyssey of a Woman Physician (Portland: Carolina Pacific Publishing, 1991), 122-123). Brodie served as President of the fifth Congress in 1956.
In 1968 Brodie became the Latin American field representative for the Pathfinder Fund (now known as Pathfinder International), founded in 1929, to promote family planning services throughout the world. Brodie worked for the fund through 1975 and remained an adviser until her death.
Throughout her life Brodie held many official positions, a few of which include president of the Portland United Nations Association and vice president of the Oregon United Nations Association in 1958, president of the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) from 1959 to 1960 and its executive director from 1961 to 1965. Brodie was also well published, having written numerous articles for medical journals and having received many honors and awards.
Brodie died July 25, 1990 in Milwaukie, Oregon, where she had lived since her retirement in the mid 1970s at Willamette View Manor.
The Jessie Laird Brodie papers document Brodie’s professional life and work. The collection, which dates from 1923 to 1990, is divided into five series: “Geographical Files;” “Subject Files;” “Chronological Files;” “Pan American Medical Women’s Alliance” (PAMWA); and “Visual Materials.”
This collection focuses on Brodie’s work for various causes and organizations in family planning and contraception, such as legislation for contraception in Oregon and the Planned Parenthood Association, the Pan American Medical Women’s Alliance (PAMWA), the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), and her work with the Pathfinder Fund (now known as Pathfinder International). There are no files concerning her private practice or her work at Reed College as a women’s physician or as a physician for Portland Public Schools. The collection is not entirely complete in its scope of Brodie’s life as there are gaps in the “Chronological Files” from 1928 to 1953 and 1971 to 1979. Despite the gaps in the “Chronological Files,” there is still material from these date ranges mixed throughout the collection’s other series.
Brodie’s papers provide an invaluable resource to researchers interested in the history of women in medicine, the history of birth-control legislation in Oregon, and Brodie’s contribution to family planning throughout her lifetime and across the world. Brodie’s work in these areas is strongly reflected in the collection through correspondence, numerous publications related to various associations including the Planned Parenthood Association, AMWA, PAMWA, and, in her later years, the Pathfinder Fund.
Formats found in the collection consist of correspondence, field reports, travel journals, scrapbooks, photographs, news clippings, memorabilia, articles and speeches, manuscripts, and visual materials, including hundreds of 35mm slides. The diversity of formats is notable throughout the entire collection, particularly throughout the first four series.
The first series, “ Geographical Files,” contains documentation of Brodie’s travels to, work with, and interest in nearly two-dozen countries, including countries in Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Russia, all arranged alphabetically by country. The majority of the files in this series relate to Brodie’s work with the Pathfinder Fund as the Latin American field representative. Haiti is the most well represented country with which Brodie worked. However, while this series has a heavy emphasis on the Pathfinder Fund, non-Pathfinder material is found throughout these files. Formats in this series include a mix of correspondence (a small percentage of which is written in French and Spanish), news clippings, photographs, itineraries, field trip reports, and scholarly publications. Dates range from 1961 to 1989 with the bulk of the date falling from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. Materials from the mid to late 1970s and the 1980s were generally collected by Brodie as she continued working as an adviser to the Pathfinder Fund and maintained connections and interests in the countries she had visited until her death in 1990, and are not products of her trips to these countries.
The second series, “ Subject Files,” is arranged alphabetically. It is more open-ended in its contents, but covers the same date span as the “Geographical Files.” The series reveals Brodie’s involvement with numerous organizations and subjects, such as the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), including her executive directorship and presidency as well as member biographical materials and general materials, the American Woman’s Hospital (Service), abortion, birth control and contraception, materials for Brodie’s autobiography and biographical materials, manuscripts, journal articles (Brodie’s and others’), the Pathfinder Fund, the Planned Parenthood Association, travelogues, the United Nations Association, Willamette View Manor, and Women in Medicine. The dates for this series span from 1923 to 1990.
The third series, “ Chronological Files,” contains an eclectic mixture of formats arranged chronologically that cover the 1930s, 1954 to 1968, 1975, and 1980 to 1989. Formats include correspondence, memorabilia, news clippings, photographs, greeting cards, and more. Researchers looking for information on particular subjects in this collection such as the Planned Parenthood Association or the state of Oregon should also look at the [associated] “Chronological Files” which sporadically contain records relating to the professional organizations with which Brodie was involved. Records such as these were not moved to related sections in the other series as the “Chronological Files” were part of the original order of the donated collection. The scrapbooks in the “Visual Materials” series should also be looked at as they provide similar yet more systematic, comprehensive coverage than the “Chronological Files.”
The fourth series, “ Pan American Medical Women’s Alliance” (PAMWA), contains records concerning general information and issues of PAMWA, such as the PAMWA Constitution, newsletters, and general correspondence between members. This series also contains a large number of files related to the first 18 PAMWA Congresses, such as correspondence between Brodie and the Congress president, news clippings about the Congress and the Congress president, photographs, memorabilia, and scholarly articles presented at the Congresses. This series spans from 1946 to 1984.
The fifth series, “ Visual Materials,” consists of eight scrapbooks, approximately 800 35mm slides, loose photographs, and negatives. The scrapbooks are arranged by date and reflect Brodie’s professional activity from 1959 to 1975. They contain a mix of formats including photographs, news clippings, memorabilia, and correspondence. Subjects found in the scrapbooks include the Planned Parenthood Association, the state of Oregon, AMWA, PAMWA, the Soroptimist Club, the Pathfinder Fund, itineraries, and more, as well as personal materials such as Christmas cards. The scrapbooks are similar to the “Chronological Files,” yet provide better coverage (but not complete coverage) of the subjects contained within. One scrapbook is different from the others as it is a family travel scrapbook, and follows Brodie's family travels from June 1945 to July 1945. The slides appear to be of Brodie’s travels outside the United States and are generally labeled with the country shown in the slides, but do not always have a date.
This collection was processed as part of the HCI-PSAR Internship Pilot Program, facilitated by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) in fall of 2013. The HCI-PSAR project was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The HCI-PSAR Intern who processed this collection received guidance and supervision from professional archivists at the Drexel University Collecge of Medicine Archives and Special Collections.
- American Medical Women's Association
- American Women's Hospitals
- Birth control
- Contraception--Law and legislation--United States
- Family planning
- Family planning--Haiti
- Family planning--Latin America
- Family planning--Mexico
- Pan American Medical Women's Alliance
- Pathfinder Fund
- Pathfinder International
- Planned Parenthood
- Reproductive rights
- Women physicians--United States
- Women's studies
- Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Collection processed and finding aid prepared by Claire (Tracy) Ulmer