Ohio History Journal

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Homeopathy and Sexual Equality:

The Controversy Over Coeducation

at Cincinnati's Pulte Medical

College, 1873-1879



The number of women physicians in the United States increased

dramatically during the late nineteenth century. From a mere 200

or less in 1860, their ranks swelled to over 7,000 by 1900.1 In Ohio,

the number of female doctors grew from 42 to 451 in the last three

decades of the century.2 Although reliable statistics are not avail-

able, it has been estimated that a majority of these women in Ohio

and elsewhere were trained in schools sponsored by groups of physi-

cians who dissented from orthodox medical therapy and were

branded as irregular sects by the American Medical Association.3

Homeopathy, a major dissenting sect which advocated extremely

small doses of medication, provided much of this early educational

opportunity.4 In Ohio, for example, the second woman to receive an



William Barlow is Professor of History at Seton Hall University and David O.

Powell is Professor of History at C.W. Post Center, Long Island University. The

authors wish to acknowledge the support of the American Philosophical Society,

Penrose Fund, Grant Number 8438. A shortened version of the paper was read at a

joint meeting of the Ohio Medical Association and the Ohio Academy of Medical

History, Columbus, Ohio, May 15, 1979.


1. Mary Roth Walsh, "Doctors Wanted: No Women Need Apply": Sexual Barriers in

the Medical Profession, 1835-1975 (New Haven, 1977), 186.

2. Frederick C. Waite, "Ohio Physicians in the Nineteenth Century, A Statistical

Study," The Ohio State Medical Journal, XL (August, 1950), 791-92.

3. Carol Lopate, Women in Medicine (Baltimore, 1968), 6.

4. Homeopathy was one of several medical sects which emerged in the first half of

the nineteenth century and were considered irregular because of their rejection of the

heroic therapy then practiced by most orthodox physicians. Heroic medicine consisted

of extensive bleeding, blistering, and sweating, together with drastic purging and

puking induced by massive doses of calomel and other toxic substances. In contrast,

homeopathy was based on the law of infinitesimals-the smaller the dose the more

effective the result-and provided welcome relief to many patients formerly subjected

to the heroic regimen. Becoming popular and somewhat fashionable in the middle