Marion Spencer Fay 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
Marion Spencer Fay (1898-1990) served as dean and president of the Woman’s College of Pennsylvania from 1943 to 1963, and promoted the recruitment of, education for and recognition of women physicians.
Marion Spencer Fay, born in 1898 in New Orleans, was the product of a family deeply involved in women’s education. Her grandfather served as president of Silliman Institute, a college for young ladies, in Clinton, Louisiana and as State Commissioner of Education. Dr. Fay earned her B.A. from Newcomb College of Tulane University in 1915, and taught high school history for two years in Kosciusko, Mississippi. However, “curiosity about disease prompted by scarlet fever—which struck her in childhood and caused the death of her younger brother—led her to pursue a master’s degree in physiological chemistry at the University of Colorado (1922) and a Ph.D. at Yale University,” ( Philadelphia Inquirer). In 1925, she was hired to teach at the University of Texas.
In 1935, Dr. Fay moved to Philadelphia to serve as professor of physiological chemistry at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. She was appointed acting dean in 1943 when Dean Margaret Craighill, the “first woman ever to receive a commission in the Medical Corps of the Army,” ( Medical Woman’s Journal, page 22) took a leave of absence for war work. After Dr. Craighill resigned in 1946, Dr. Fay was appointed Dean of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. According to a biographical sketch, Dr. Fay was “completely devoted to her job which include[d] daily meeting with committees of the Board of Corporators, advising students on internships, personal and other problems, raising funds for the college, directing its relations with the public, meetings with faculty members, and with the medical director of the college’s hospital,” ( Medical Woman’s Journal, page 21) as well as occasionally lecturing and reviewing applications for the college.
Serving as dean in the early 1940s was not easy--“when [Dr. Fay] first came into the Deanship, [she] came into a school that needed money badly,” ( Pennsylvania Medical Journal, page 28) and she “supposed that as men went to war, vacancies at coeducational medical schools would draw away applicants from the Woman’s Medical College,” (Peitzman, page 179). However, Dr. Fay and her colleagues brought the “institution through the war years academically and fiscally intact, with more and stronger students,” (Peitzman, page 179).
In 1959, Dr. Fay was named president and dean of college, “becoming the only woman in the country to hold such a dual post in a medical school,” (Philadelphia Inquirer). During her tenure as president, her responsibilities included the operation of the entire Woman’s Medical College which consisted of students, the hospital, the nursing school and a faculty and staff of 100 men and women. ( Medical Woman’s Journal, page 21). Despite Dr. Fay’s increased responsibilities, “she actively and enthusiastically promoted recruitment and recognition for women physicians,”(Keene, page 22). As a result of her efforts, a preventative medicine wing was built in 1954, a research wing was built in 1960, and she ensured that the president of the Woman’s Medical College received a full-time salary. She worked during her tenure to allow for a clinical services and teaching wing to be built in 1965, just after her retirement. She also authored many scientific articles and several books.
After retiring in 1963, Dr. Fay continued her involvement in the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania by serving on the Board of Corporators. In 1970, she was asked to serve as acting president, which she did for a year and a half.
At the age of 93, Dr. Fay died on May 20, 1990. It was stated that her “greatest satisfaction [was] to see girls with a burning desire for education in medicine grow into mature, skilled women who go out and make splendid records in hospitals, in public agency work, in private practice all over the world,” ( Medical Woman’s Journal, page 24). During her 55 years in association with the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Dr. Fay was named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 1955, received the first Achievement Award of the National Council of Auxiliaries of the American Medical Center in 1958, and was awarded the Gimbel Award for the outstanding Philadelphia woman of the year in 1959. During the 1960s, she was appointed to serve on a presidential commission on heart disease, cancer and strokes by President Lyndon Johnson. At the time of her retirement in 1963, the National Board for Women in Medicine established the Marion Spencer Fay Award to be given annually to “a woman physician or scientist who has made an exceptionally significant contribution to health care as a practitioner, medical educator, administrator, and/or research scientist and who exhibits significant future potential” (Drexel University).
Drexel University College of Medicine. Marion Spencer Fay Award. (http://www.drexelmed.edu), accessed June 5, 2011.
Keene, Clifford H. Pioneer-Pacesetter-Innovator: The Story of the Medical College of Pennsylvania. New York: The Newcomen Society of North America, 1971.
Medical Woman’s Journal. “Dean Marion Fay, Ph.D,” Vol. 59, No. 7. (1952 July), 21-22, 24.
Peitzman, Steven J. A New and Untried Course: Woman’s Medical College and Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1850-1998. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 200.
Pennsylvania Medical Journal. “PMJ Interview with Marion Spencer Fay, Ph.D.: Former President and Dean, Woman’s Medical College,” (1964 February), 25-26.
Philadelphia Inquirer. “Marion Spencer Fay, 93,” 1990 May 22.
This collection includes the papers of Dr. Marian Spencer Fay, focusing primarily on her years as dean and president of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania from 1946 to 1963. The texts of many speeches given to diverse audiences by Dr. Fay in the 1950s and 1960s concerning the role of women in medicine and medical education are a highlight of the collection. Also included are administrative correspondence, documentation of fund raising efforts, materials related to Dr. Fay's service on the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke, and documentary materials about the history of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, the first women's medical college. A number of professional reports, conference proceedings, and other artifacts related to medical education in the mid-twentieth century are also included. Arrangement is alphabetical by topic. Researchers interested in the history of women in medical education, women in higher education administration, mid-twentieth century medical education, and the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania may find value in this collection. Materials on Dr. Fay's personal life are mostly lacking.
Gift of Dr. Marion Spencer Fay, 1977-1979.
The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
This collection is minimally processed to the folder level.
In addition to her papers, Dr. Fay also donated several books, her academic gown, and photographs which are stored and cataloged separately from this collection. For access to these materials, please contact the Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center.
- Drexel University: College of Medicine Legacy Center
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Shellie Jeffries and Emily Alling
- Finding Aid Date
- June 15, 2011
- The processing of this collection was made possible through a training session "Archives for Non-Archivists" hosted by the Council on Library and Information Resources and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the Archives with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce the material.