American Women's Hospitals Service photographs
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
The American Women's Hospitals (AWH) developed from the War Service Committee of the Medical Women's National Association (later, American Medical Women's Association (AMWA)) in 1917 to provide, register and finance American women physicians for war work; offer medical and emergency relief to refugees; and, later, to provide international public health service. In 1959, AWH became an independent agency and remained such until 1982 when it re-merged with AMWA.
In the earliest years of the AWHS, from 1917 to 1920, the major arenas of activity were in France, Albania, Greece and the Near East. AWHS personnel labored extensively in the last three areas throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and added services to Serbia, Russia, Asia and the rural United States. The outbreak of World War II returned their attentions to Western Europe as projects of emergency medical relief were made necessary in war zones. In the post-war period, the AWHS worked to shift administrative and professional duties to the home country, financing the training and employment of native female personnel in China, Japan, Haiti, India, Southeast Asia and the Philippines. More recent AWHS ventures focused on Indians in North and South America, and rural residents of the southeastern United States, curtailing emergency medical services in favor of on-going prevention programs. For example, AWHS was involved in the study and prevention of pellagra in Spartanburg, South Carolina between 1929 and the mid 1950s. Generally, AWHS's efforts focused on emergency medical care, maternity and children's welfare, preventive care programs and the coordination of social and economic care with medical aid.
The collection houses photographs created by the American Women's Hospitals Service (AWHS) from 1917 to 1982 to document and promote the organization's work to provide health care to under-serviced populations in the United States and abroad. The photographs are part of a larger collection of AWHS records with a separate finding aid: American Women’s Hospitals records, 1917-1982 (WMSC010).
The AWHS photographs were frequently used in fundraising and publicity campaigns and as a result are frequently annotated to identify the primary subject, geographic location and, occasionally, individuals. Together, the photographs provide a graphic chronicle of the variety and forms of AWHS fieldwork worldwide. The images are arranged alphabetically by geographic location, with a few files at the end containing portraits of AWHS personnel and significant women in medicine associated with the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. In addition to the photographic record, this collection also includes a few files containing correspondence of Dr. Esther Lovejoy, and written material used by Dr. Alma Dea Morani to prepare for a lecture in 1974.
Researchers will find images of field and clinic work conducted in Africa, Albania, Bolivia, France, Greece, India, Korea, Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Vietnam and Yugoslavia, to name a few, from 1917 to 1982. Countries with particularly robust representation in the collection include Greece and the United States, closely followed by China, India and Turkey. A majority of the images depict AWHS members treating patients whose health suffered from the devastation of war in Europe and elsewhere, especially after WWI, and issues of health resulting from abject poverty and malnutrition. Photographs taken in Greece also document the interaction between the AWHS staff and residents of numerous communities in which AWHS maintained clinics.
The files regarding the United States document the "Rural Services" division of the AWHS, which included service in the Blue Ridge Mountain region, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and other areas from the 1920s to the 1970s. The earliest images in these files depict visiting doctors and nurses who traveled into remote regions of the rural south, administering healthcare and preventative healthcare education to families at their homes, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s. Later images often depict health care provided in established clinics. In particular, there are numerous photographs taken in the Woman's Maternity Shelter in Greenville, South Carolina during the 1940s, and images related to education programs and the fight against pellagra and other diseases in the southern United States from the 1920s to the 1950s.
In addition to photographic documentation of AWHS's efforts, this collection also contains portraits of doctors, nurses, and other personnel who supported and carried out the organization's efforts throughout the twentieth century. A majority of the portraits are identified, although there are some folders that contain portraits of unidentified people and places. Also included at the end of the collection are some correspondence and other documents that give evidence to Dr. Esther Lovejoy's and Dr. Alma Morani's involvement in the organization during the latter half of the twentieth century.
Researchers interested in social history; the history of women in medicine; public health issues; the health effects of war, poverty and malnutrition; and/or the American rural south may find this collection useful.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
- American Medical Women's Association.
- American Women's Hospitals.
- Medical Women's National Association (U.S.).
- Child welfare
- Fund raising
- Medicine, Preventive
- Public health
- Rural population
- War work
- Women in medicine
- Women physicians
- World War I
- World War II
- Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Eric Rosenzweig
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Drexel University College of Medicine, Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.