Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi

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Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi
Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi
Born Mary Corinna Putnam
August 31, 1842
London, UK
Died June 10, 1906(1906-06-10) (aged 63)
New York City
Nationality American
Education Faculté de Médecine de Paris
Known for Medicine
Spouse(s) Abraham Jacobi
Children Marjorie Jacobi McAneny
Parent(s) George Palmer Putnam

Mary Corinna Putnam (August 31, 1842 – June 10, 1906) was an American physician, writer, and suffragist.[1] She crusaded for the integration of clinical and laboratory studies. Disparaging anecdotal evidence and traditional approaches, she demanded scientific research on every question of the day. As a leading feminist, she rejected the traditional wisdom about the weaknesses of women.[2] Her work with reformers and suffragists made her a leading spokesman for women's health during the Progressive Era.


The daughter of George Palmer Putnam and Victorine Haven Putnam, she was born in London, where her father had been living since 1841 while establishing a branch office for his New York City publishing company, Wiley & Putnam. She was the oldest of eleven children.[3]

Jacobi's parents returned to the United States in 1848, and she spent her childhood and adolescence in New York City. She got most of her early education at home along with two years at a new public school for girls on 12th Street where she graduated in 1859. She published a story, "Found and Lost," in the April 1860 issue of Atlantic Monthly, and a year later she published another. After her 1859 graduation, she studied Greek, and science, and medicine privately with Elizabeth Blackwell and others. Her father thought medicine a "repulsive" profession, but ultimately supported her endeavor.

Jacobi served during the Civil War as a medical aide.[4] She graduated from the New York College of Pharmacy in 1863 and earned her M.D. from the Female (later Women's) Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1864.[4] A short internship at New England Hospital for Women and Children showed her she needed further study before practicing medicine. She left for Paris to apply to the École de Médecine of the University of Paris. After much negotiation and thanks to the help of the psychiatrist Benjamin Ball, she was admitted as the first woman student.[2] She graduated in July 1871, the second woman to get a degree there, and received second prize for her thesis.

Her studies in Paris coincided with the Franco-Prussian War. In Scribner's Monthly of August 1871, she published an account of the new French political leadership that came to power following the war.

After returning to the United States in the fall of 1871, she established a medical practice in New York City, became the second woman member of the Medical Society of the County of New York, was admitted to the American Medical Association, and became a professor in the new Woman's Medical College of the New York Infirmary. In 1872 she organized the Women's Medical Association of New York City.[2] Jacobi served as its president from 1874 to 1903. She campaigned consistently for leading medical schools, like Johns Hopkins, to admit women students.[4] Her teaching at the Medical College tended to exceed what her students were prepared for and led her to resign in 1888.

She received Harvard University's Boylston Prize in 1876 for an original essay, The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation, which debunked the theory that women who did not rest during menstruation would damage their reproductive organs.[2] In 1891 she contributed a paper on the history of women physicians in the United States to the volume Women's Work in America that included a bibliography of writings by American female physicians that mentioned over forty of her own works.

In 1873, she married Abraham Jacobi who is often referred to as the "father of American pediatrics." They had three children, though only one survived to adulthood, Marjorie Jacobi McAneny. Jacobi educated her daughter herself according to her own educational theories.

Jacobi wrote more than 100 medical papers. She stopped writing fiction in 1871. In 1894, she wrote Common Sense Applied to Women's Suffrage which was later reprinted and used to support the women's suffrage movement in the United States.[4]

While her mentor Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) viewed medicine as a means for social and moral reform, the younger Jacobi focused on curing disease. At a deeper level of disagreement, Blackwell felt that women would succeed in medicine because of their humane female values, but Jacobi believed that women should participate as the equals of men in all medical specialties.[5]

When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, she documented her own symptoms and published a paper on the subject titled, Descriptions of the Early Symptoms of the Meningeal Tumor Compressing the Cerebellum.[2] She died in New York City on June 10, 1906.[3] Jacobi is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.


  • De la graisse neutre et de les acides gras (Paris thesis, 1871)
  • The Question of Rest for Women during Menstruation (1876)
  • Acute Fatty Degeneration of New Born (1878)
  • The Value of Life (New York, 1879)
  • Cold Pack and Anæmia (1880)
  • The Prophylaxis of Insanity (1881)
  • "Studies in Endometritis" in the American Journal of Obstetrics (1885)
  • Articles on "Infantile Paralysis" and "Pseudo-Muscular Hypertrophy" in Pepper's Archives of Medicine (1888)
  • Hysteria, and other Essays (1888)
  • Physiological Notes on Primary Education and the Study of Language (1889)
  • "Common Sense" Applied to Woman Suffrage (1894) This expanded on an address she made that same year before a constitutional convention in Albany. It was reprinted in 1915 and contributed to the final successful push for women's suffrage.
  • From Massachusetts to Turkey (1896)


  1. Denise Grady (November 11, 2013). "Honoring Female Pioneers in Science". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-12-14. Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi, born in 1842 in London, grew up in New York and began publishing short stories at 17. But what she really wanted was to be a doctor. ...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Swaby, Rachel (2015). Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science - And the World. New York: Broadway Books. pp. 3–6. ISBN 9780553446791.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi". Retrieved 2012-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Bowman, John, ed. (2001). "Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906)". Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography. Ipswich, Massachusetts: Literary Reference Center. ISBN 9780521402583.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Regina Markell Morantz, "Feminism, Professionalism and Germs: The Thought of Mary Putnam Jacobi and Elizabeth Blackwell," American Quarterly (1982) 34:461-478. in JSTOR

Further reading

  • Bittel, Carla. Mary Putnam Jacobi and the Politics of Medicine in Nineteenth-Century America (2009) excerpt and text search
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  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • Harvey, J (1994). "La Visite: Mary Putnam Jacobi and the Paris Medical Clinics". Clio medica (Amsterdam, Netherlands). 25: 350–71. PMID 7517812.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ross, M M (1992). "Women's struggles to enter medicine: two nineteenth-century women physicians in America". The Pharos of Alpha Omega Alpha-Honor Medical Society. Alpha Omega Alpha. 55 (1): 33–6. PMID 1565681.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Farley, F (1984). "Two generations of women physicians: the New York Infirmary, 1870–1899". Journal of the American Medical Women's Association (1972). 39 (6): 189–91. PMID 6392396.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  • La graisse neutre et des acides gras. Thesis (Doctorate en Médecine)--Faculté de médecine de Paris, 1871.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Jacobi, Abraham". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1892.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Jacobi, Mary Putnam". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Jacobi, Mary Putnam". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mary Bronson Hartt (1932). "Jacobi, Mary Corinna Putnam". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Carol B. Gartner (1999). "Jacobi, Mary Corinna Putnam". American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links