Martha Wollstein, a pathologist who spent forty-three years at Babies Hospital in New York, where she conducted research on infant diarrhea, malaria, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever, died at age 70 in New York on this date in 1939. Wollstein also conducted research on pneumonia, meningitis, and the mumps at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. “Over several generations,” writes Jennifer Tebbe-Grossman at the Jewish Women’s Archive, “her pathological studies supported the work of clinical physicians and public health workers in their common struggle to ascertain the ways bacteria were transmitted, diagnose patient illness, and mount effective campaigns to eliminate infectious disease.” Wollstein was the first woman granted membership in the American Pediatric Society, in 1930. By the time she retired in 1935, she had published some eighty scientific papers, as well as pioneering articles about the struggles of women to enter medical schools and gain professional appointments as doctors and researchers.
“In 1900 more than seven thousand female physicians were practicing in the United States. More than one hundred of these doctors were African Americans. These women comprised about 5 percent of all doctors, and that percentage remained steady until increases began in the 1960s.” —”Diversity in the Medical Profession: Women Physicians,” American Decades