Dr. Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead was a health care pioneer, and an advocate for women in the medical profession. In 1891, she helped establish the Evening Dispensary for Working Women and Girls in Baltimore, Maryland, the first medical institution to employ women physicians in Baltimore. She was an avid promoter of the new maternal hygiene and infant welfare models, and a devoted supporter of women physicians. She also documented and wrote about the history of women in medicine.
Kate Campbell Hurd was born in Danville, Quebec, in 1867 and grew up in Newburyport, Massachusetts. She decided to study medicine out of respect for her father's career as a doctor, and on the advice of the well-respected woman physician, Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi.
In 1885, she entered the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, receiving her M.D. in 1888. After a year's internship at Boston's New England Hospital for Women and Children, where she studied with Dr. Marie Zakrzewska, Dr. Hurd went to Europe for another year of postgraduate work. In 1890, she moved to Baltimore to become medical director at the Bryn Mawr School for Girls.
At the Bryn Mawr School for Girls, Dr. Hurd oversaw the school's trailblazing preventive health program, which included physical education and periodic examinations. Her time in Baltimore was productive. Working with Dr. Alice Hall, she helped establish the Evening Dispensary for Working Women and Girls. In 1893 she married William Edward Mead and the couple moved to Middletown, Connecticut, to be close to his job as a professor of early English at Wesleyan University. Setting up a private practice, Dr. Hurd-Mead also helped incorporate Middlesex County Hospital.
While at Middlesex County Hospital, she also helped found several nurses' training programs. She became increasingly interested in the social role of medicine. Embracing a widely-accepted belief of the timethat family life was the core a moral societyDr. Hurd-Mead spoke fondly of the regular post-op lunches in which she and her colleagues discussed ways to improve the human condition. Throughout her life, she volunteered in many service organizations and continued to publish articles advocating a full range of public health services for women and children.
After several years in private practice, she traveled to Vienna and spent three years studying gynecology and pediatrics. When she returned to Connecticut in 1907, she accepted the position of consulting gynecologist at Middlesex County Hospital, a position she held until retirement in 1925.
After her retirement from Middlesex County Hospital in 1925, and through the last sixteen years of her life, Dr. Hurd-Mead dedicated herself to documenting the history of women in medicine. To begin, she moved to London in 1925 and spent two years researching the extensive collections at the British Museum. She then proceeded to Europe, Asia, and Africa in search of additional material. Returning to Connecticut in 1929, she sat down to work on her colossal task. Her first efforts were serialized in Medical Review of Reviews and focused on pioneering women physicians in the United States and England, with the full serial published in 1933. Planning to compile all her research in a multi-volume set, Dr. Hurd-Mead only lived to see publication of her first volume, covering the history of women in medicine up to the nineteenth century. She had completed the manuscript for the second volume, the history of women in medicine in the Eastern Hemisphere, by the time of her death in 1941, but the third volume, bringing the history of women in medicine in the Western Hemisphere up to date, was never completed. Never lacking ambition, Kate Campbell Hurd-Mead also never lacked energy, drive, or a project on which to expend them.
In an essay she wrote to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of her alma mater, the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, in 1925, Dr. Hurd-Mead reminisced about her career as a woman physician, looking back to a time before the introduction of bacteriology, before routine x-rays, and when whisky was the usual prescription for pneumonia. She had begun to study medicine at the forefront of remarkable changes in her profession, and was a firm believer in potential of medicine to improve lives. She devoted much of her life's work to ensuring that medical advances benefited as many people as possible, and to ensuring that the role of women physicians in achieving that goal was well documented and preserved.