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May 18: Rachelle Yarros

Lawrence Bush
May 18, 2010

hull2Rachelle Slobodinsky Yarros, the first woman admitted to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Boston (1890), was born on this date in 1869 near Kiev. She was forced to flee the Russian Empire at age 18 because of her involvement in anarchist politics. Yarros became a physician in 1893 and practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Chicago, where she became a professor at the University of Illinois. Eventually her career as a doctor was overtaken by a career as a reformer in the “social hygiene,” birth control, and women’s suffrage movements. (“Social hygiene” focused on the eradication of venereal disease and prostitution.) In 1923, at the urging of Margaret Sanger, Yarros opened the second birth control clinic in America. Her husband was the anarchist journalist and attorney Victor Yarros, who was a law partner of Clarence Darrow. The couple resided together at Jane Addams’ Hull House from 1907 to 1927.
“[T]he physician is also a citizen . . . [and should] sympathize with labor, with victims of exploitation and industrial autocracy, with the juvenile and adult deliquents, productsof slums.” —Rachelle Yarros

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.