Hannah E. Myers Longshore, M.D., was one of the first women to be admitted to the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania and one of the first women faculty members at an American medical school. She gave public lectures on sexual health at a time when there was little public discussion of any kind on the subject, and became Philadelphia's first woman physician in private practice, a role she maintained for forty years in spite of vocal, near-violent, opposition.
Hannah Myers was born in 1819. Her father taught at a Quaker school in Maryland and her mother came from a family of Pennsylvania Quakersa Christian movement that encouraged humanitarianism and equal education for boys and girls. Young Hannah Myers had always loved science. As a child, she enjoyed examining insects and small animals. As she grew older, she began to relish the idea of studying medicine. This was exceptional for a woman in the 1830s. But with support of her remarkable family, this shy child who could not speak in public grew up to be Philadelphia's first woman physician.
While she was still very young, her family moved to Washington, D.C., and she attended a Quaker school until her early teens. Her father was an abolitionist and was angered by the existence of slavery in the nation's capital, prompting the family to move again in 1833this time to a farm in Columbiana County, Ohio, where they could be close to the Quaker colony of New Lisbon. Hannah Longshore studied for several years at the New Lisbon Academy, near her home, but her plan to then enter Oberlin College and study medicine was delayed due to lack of funds.
In 1841, Hannah Myers married Thomas Ellwood Longshore, a teacher at the New Lisbon Academy. A staunch supporter of women's education and social reform, he supported his new wife's plans to go to medical school but Hannah Longshore's medical education was again postponed by the birth of two childrenChanning in 1842, and Lucretia in 1845. When Lucretia was born, Thomas Longshore lost his teaching job due to his anti-slavery convictions, so the family moved back to his hometown of Attleboro, Pennsylvania.
While her husband found work at a local Quaker school, Hannah Longshore began an apprenticeship with her brother-in-law, Joseph Skelton Longshore, a homeopathic physician, who shared Thomas Longshore's sympathy for women's education. Dr. Joseph Longshore encouraged Hannah, along with his sister Anna, to study his medical books and to observe his work with patients. To provide them with better training, Joseph Longshore and other Pennsylvania Quakers established the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1850. That same year, 31-year old Hannah Longshore finally realized her dream of studying medicine enrolled in the College's first class. Completing the customary four months of training, she received her M.D. in 1851, along with her sister-in-law Anna.
Dr. Hannah Longshore began her medical career by demonstrating anatomy at the Female Medical College, becoming one of the first women to hold a faculty position at an American medical school. Since the college had established a faculty-exchange system with the New England Female Medical College in Boston, Dr. Longshore next secured a job in Boston demonstrating anatomy from February to June 1852. She returned to Philadelphia to work at the Female Medical College later that year, but left in 1853 after a rift with the college faculty over how medicine should be taught. When Dr. Joseph Longshore and others left the college to start a new eclectic medical school, the Pennsylvania Medical University, Dr. Hannah Longshore went with them. She taught anatomy at the Pennsylvania Medical University for the next four years.
When Dr. Hannah Longshore opened her practice as Philadelphia's first woman physician, in 1853, she faced "ribald derision" from the public. Many doctors initially refused to consult with her and pharmacists refused to fill her prescriptions. One advised her to "go home and darn your husband's socks." For a time, she had to prepare her own medicines by hand. Despite objections, Dr. Longshore offered a series of public lectures on physiology and hygiene, encouraged by women's rights leaders such as Lucretia Mott. Dr. Hannah Longshore's frank discussions of sexual matters shocked conservatives but brought her praise by others, and many patients. At one point, her practice included around three hundred families, a record met by few other doctors in her day. Dr. Hannah Myers Longshore retired in 1892, and died nine years later, leaving a remarkable legacy of four decades in private practice.