Ann Preston, M.D., Historical Marker
Ann Preston was born December 1, 1813, to Amos Preston, a Quaker minister, and Margaret Smith Preston, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, a Quaker community near Philadelphia. She was the second of nine children and out of their three daughters, Ann was the only one to survive to adulthood. Ann Preston loved writing and she published different books and poems, including Cousin Ann's Stories In 1849, a book of nursery rhymes. She is most known for starting the Women’s Medical College. This was the first college in which women were able to get an education and a degree in the medical field (Bacon, Margaret Hope). The historical marker was erected in 2008 by Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and was placed here due to it being Preston’s place of birth.
Backstory and Context
Ann Preston attended her early childhood education at a local Quaker school in West Grove, Pennsylvania as well as at Friends boarding school in Chester, Pennsylvania. She did this until she had to return home to care for her family when her mother became ill. As Preston wanted to continue her education, she decided to attend lectures of the local literacy association and lyceum. She also became a member of the Clarkson Anti-Slavery Society and the temperance movement, where she wrote petitions and lectures for the Anti-Slavery Society (PeoplePill).
By the early 1840’s she had begun teaching physiology and hygiene to all-female classes, with a vision to educate women about their own bodies as well as their function. In 1847, she applied for an apprenticeship in medical education, working under Dr. Nathaniel R. Moseley. At this time, she started applying to four different medical colleges in Philadelphia, only to get turned away immediately due to her gender. Unfortunately, this was extremely common and at this time, all women who attempted to apply for medical school were rejected right away. However, this did not stop Ann and in March 1850, with her help, a group of Quakers founded the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. Later that October, Ann enrolled in the first class. The following year, in December 1851, at age 38, she graduated. Following her graduation, she decided to stay for one year of postgraduate study and in 1853, she was assigned professor of physiology and hygiene (PeoplePill).
A few years later, in 1858, the Philadelphia Medical Society loudly expressed their concerns against the Female Medical College for excluding women from medical societies as well as educational clinics. From this, Ann Preston decided to do something about this injustice and brought together a group of "lady managers," who supported the issue and had money to help support the cause. They later funded and ran a woman's hospital where women were now able to be included in medical societies and educational clinics. The women’s hospital opened its doors in 1861 and two years later in 1863, Dr. Ann Preston established a school of nursing (Changing the Face of Medicine | AnnPreston).
In 1866, Dr. Ann Preston became the first woman dean of the Woman's Medical College, and then in 1867 was elected to the college board. In 1868, still determined to improve the educational opportunities, especially those of her students, she reasoned with Philadelphia Hospital, Blockley to allow her students to attend the general clinics there. And in 1869 she made a similar arrangement with the Pennsylvania Hospital (Yurtoğlu, Nadir).
The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania was originally called the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania. The name changed to Woman’s in 1867 and the associated Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1861. In 1970, men were allowed to be admitted so it was renamed once again to Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1930, the campus combined teaching and the clinical care of a hospital. It then became the first purpose-built hospital in the nation. Later, in 1993 the college/hospital merged with Hahnemann Medical School and finally was taken over by Drexel University College of Medicine in 2003 (Irimia R, Gottschling M).
Ann Preston was an abolitionist and her community, The Chester County Quaker Community, was passionately abolitionist and pro-temperance. The Preston family farm, Prestonville, was known as safe place for escaped slaves. And, as the dean of the Woman’s Medical College, Dr. Ann Preston was also the first to admit women regardless of any race (PeoplePill).
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“Irimia R, Gottschling M. “Biodiversity Data Journal 4”, 2016.
PeoplePill. “Ann Preston: Philadelphia Physician (1813-1872) - Biography and Life.”
“Preston, Ann (1813–1872).” Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia,
Encyclopedia.com, 13 Feb. 2020.
Yurtoğlu, Nadir. “History Studies International Journal of History”, vol. 10, no. 7, 2018, pp.