Health and Heresy

By Paul Theerman, Director

Because medicine deals with the human body, emotions can run high. When the issue is contraception, emotions run even higher. As part of Banned Books Week, consider two early U.S. works on birth control that shaped a congressional career, led to imprisonment at hard labor, and resulted in a conviction for blasphemy.

The first author is Robert Dale Owen (1801–1877). Son of Robert Owen, the British textile manufacturer and socialist reformer, Owen emigrated to the United States in 1825 to the utopian community that his father had founded that year in New Harmony, Indiana. There, with feminist and socialist Frances Wright (1795–1852), he published the newspaper New-Harmony Gazette, an outlet that expressed their then-radical views on women’s rights, slavery, public education, marriage, and birth control. After he and Wright relocated to New York City, they published Owen’s Moral Physiology; or, a Brief and Plain Treatise on the Population Question (1830), one of the first books on birth control in the United States. The book was a response to the ideas of English economist Thomas Malthus (1766–1834), who posited that, otherwise unchecked, population would always outpace food supply; Owen also saw birth control within a broader political and social context of personal freedom and equality of the sexes.

Title page of the Library’s copy of Robert Dale Owen’s Moral Physiology; or, a Brief and Plain Treatise on the Population Question, 5th edition, 1831, published through Owen’s partnership with Frances Wright.
“Alas, that it should ever have been born!” frontispiece to Owen’s Moral Physiology, showing a mother leaving a child at a foundling hospital. The engraving is by American artist and engraver Asher B. Durand, based on a work by French artist, Pierre-Roch Vigneron.
Title page from the Library’s copy of Charles Knowlton’s Fruits of Philosophy; or, the Private Companion of Adult People, 4th edition, 1839. (The title varied slightly from edition to edition.)

While in New York, Owen became acquainted with Charles Knowlton (1800–1850), a western Massachusetts physician. A materialist and freethinker, Knowlton published Fruits of Philosophy; or, the Private Companion of Young Married People in 1832. Designed as an aid to the couples he attended, the book was originally published anonymously and printed in a small format so it could be readily concealed. Fruits of Philosophy was the first U.S. birth control book written by a physician and went into detail on methods and practicality.

Birth control was a contentious issue for many reasons. Besides the works’ frankness about subjects not openly discussed, contraception was opposed on moral and religious grounds. One reason was the traditional idea that sex within marriage should have procreation as its purpose. Beyond this, birth control was thought to lead to greater immorality, promoting sex outside of marriage and even prostitution, as the natural obstacle against freer sexual activity—that is, pregnancy—had been removed.

Owen’s and Knowlton’s books had consequences. Owen returned to Indiana in 1833 and became an Indiana state legislator in 1835. Twice, though, he ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and lost, partly on the reputation of Moral Physiology. He eventually prevailed on the strength of a Democratic electoral wave and served in the House from 1843 to 1847, helping to establish the Smithsonian Institution. His plans to remain in the House failed, though, due in part to his views on birth control, and he was defeated for re-election in 1846.

For Knowlton the consequences were far more severe. After he published Fruits of Philosophy, he was prosecuted and fined for obscenity. His booklet was then taken up by a former Unitarian minister, Abner Kneeland (1774–1844), who printed a second edition in Boston in 1832. The resulting publicity led to Knowlton’s again being convicted for obscenity and this time imprisoned for three months at hard labor. The controversy played into Kneeland’s trial for blasphemy, still a crime in Massachusetts. He was convicted in 1838 and served 60 days in jail, the last person to be imprisoned on that charge in the country. Upon his release, Kneeland moved to Iowa and set up “Salubria” (Health), a community of like-minded freethinkers.

Restricting access to contraceptive knowledge was American practice up to the mid-20th century, under the guise of anti-obscenity laws. The 1873 Federal statute known as the Comstock Law, made it illegal to use the U.S. Postal Service to distribute such information, while a 1909 act extended this ban to interstate common carriers such as railroads. Many states also had their own laws. Congress made one of the most severe laws for the District of Columbia, over which it had direct control: giving birth-control literature to another Washingtonian could result in 5 years’ imprisonment at hard labor and a $2,000 fine. Not until 1972 were all these laws overturned.

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month: Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde, PhD, RN, FAAN

By Logan Heiman, Digital Collections Manager

September 15 marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the cultures, traditions, heritage, and achievements of those in the United States who trace their roots to Spain and the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. At the New York Academy of Medicine, we are celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of Hispanic Americans to medicine and public health in the United States. According to survey data compiled by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis in 2018, more than 10% of registered nurses in the United States identified as Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish. Contrast this with Ildaura Murillo-Rohde’s remarks about the paucity of representation in Washington, DC, for Hispanic nurses early in her career: “I saw that I was the only Hispanic nurse who was going to Washington to work with the federal government, review research and education grants, etc. There was nobody else. I looked behind me and thought: ‘Where are my people?’”

Ildaura Murillo-Rohde, PhD, RN, FAAN (1920–2010). National Association of Hispanic Nurses.

Ildaura Murillo-Rohde (1920–2010) was a Panamanian American nurse, academic, and health policy advocate who championed of the unique health care needs of Hispanic populations. Murillo-Rohde earned a nursing diploma from the Medical and Surgical Hospital School of Nursing in San Antonio, Texas, before obtaining an undergraduate degree in the teaching and supervision of psychiatric nursing from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1953. Upon graduation, she joined Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, working with patients diagnosed with “Puerto Rican syndrome,” the name for a condition first used to describe traumatized Puerto Rican soldiers in the Korean War. Wayne County General Hospital’s Psychiatric Division in Michigan then recruited her before she returned to New York to open Elmhurst General Hospital’s first psychiatric division in Queens. In 1971 she became the first Hispanic nurse to earn a PhD from New York University.

Throughout her career Murillo-Rohde maintained a strong commitment to growing the ranks of Hispanic nurses. Informed by her experience as a reviewer of federal research and education grants, she also sought to boost the number of policy experts advising lawmakers on the health care concerns of Hispanic communities. In the 1970s, Murillo-Rohde was an active member of the American Nurses Association (ANA), where she mounted a two-year-long effort to include the Ad Hoc Committee of the Spanish-Speaking/Spanish Surname Nurses’ Caucus in the ANA’s administrative structure. In 1975, with a group of about 15 nurses, Murillo-Rohde formed the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) after the ANA rejected attempts to formally recognize the caucus.

Murillo-Rohde in the 1970s. Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing, MC 172.

Since its inception, NAHN has worked broadly to improve health care delivery and outcomes for the Hispanic community in the United States. Today, the organization sponsors an award for distinction in nursing scholarship, research, and practice, as well as a scholarship for Hispanic students enrolled in nursing programs that lead to licensure.

NAHN also publishes Hispanic Health Care International, featuring research and scholarship on issues of import to US and international Hispanic populations. Judith Aponte, a 2012 NYAM Fellow and Associate Professor of Nursing at Hunter College, is a former editor-in-chief of HHCI.

Beyond her role as founder and first president of NAHN, Murillo-Rohde was an expert on psychotherapy, marriage, and family therapy, and served in several roles in academic administration, including Dean of the College of Nursing at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Murillo-Rohde’s influence was felt internationally as well through her appointment as WHO’s psychiatric consultant to the Guatemalan government, establishing a pilot program to train personnel in psychiatric care. She further served as Permanent UN Representative to UNICEF for the International Federation of Business and Professional Women. Murillo-Rohde passed away in her native Panama in 2010 at the age of 89.

References

1. Aponte, Judith. School of Nursing at Hunter College, City University of New York, 2021. http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/nursing/faculty/judith-aponte

2. Brush, Barbara & Villarruel, Antonia (2014). “Heeding the Past, Leading the Future.” Hispanic Health Care International. 12. DOI: 10.1891/1540-4153.12.4.159.

3. Feldman Harriet, PhD, RN, FAAN, et al. Nursing Leadership: A Concise Encyclopedia. 2nd ed., Springer Publishing Company, 2011, p. 393.

4. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde Papers, Barbara Bates Center for The Study of The History of Nursing, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania.

5. Portillo, Carmen. “25 and Counting.” Minority Nurse Magazine. 30 Mar. 2013. https://minoritynurse.com/25-and-counting/

6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. 2019. Brief Summary Results from the 2018 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses, Rockville, Maryland. https://data.hrsa.gov/DataDownload/NSSRN/GeneralPUF18/nssrn-summary-report.pdf

The Faces Behind Our Fellowships

By Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian

The Library has two residential research fellowships, the Paul Klemperer Fellowship in the History of Medicine and the Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellowship in the History of Medicine and Public Health. While there is plenty of information on our website about how to apply for our fellowships, there is no information there about the people for whom they are named, and it seems appropriate to share a little bit about them.

Paul Klemperer (1887–1964) spent much of his career at Mount Sinai Hospital, where he held the position of pathologist from 1927 until his retirement in 1955. Born outside of Vienna, Klemperer first enrolled at the University of Vienna, intending to become a lawyer. At the suggestion of his father, he took a class on psychoanalysis taught by family friend Sigmund Freud and began to study medicine instead. After receiving his medical degree in 1912, he spent two years studying pathological anatomy, and then served as a physician during World War I. In 1921, he emigrated to the United States, spending a year in Chicago before moving to New York, teaching briefly at the New York Post-Graduate Medical School before joining the staff at Mount Sinai. He also taught pathology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University for many years, and after retirement continued to teach the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Paul Klemperer, M.D. (1887–1964). NYAM Library Collections.

His students and colleagues were devoted to him. In 1962, the Academy presented him with the Academy Medal for Distinguished Contributions to Biomedical Science. In his remarks George Baehr, his colleague at Mount Sinai, noted that Klemperer’s skill as a pathologist combined with his skill as a teacher made him a much-loved figure in all the institutions to which he had a connection. Neuropathologist Stanley Aronson, in a 1989 reminiscence in the Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, recalled him as “one who was shy yet effective, retiring yet generous, undemonstrative yet passionate, learned yet learning, always learning. For he was truly our teacher.”[1]

After he retired, Klemperer devoted significant time to the study of the history of medicine. He wrote the preface and introduction to the Academy’s publication of a translation of Giambattista Morgagni’s noted book on pathology, The Seats and causes of diseases investigated by anatomy, as well as translating five letters of Morgagni. He also wrote the introductions to several other volumes in the Academy’s history of medicine series. To honor his memory and his devotion to the history of medicine, some years after his death an anonymous group of donors endowed the fellowship that bears his name, first awarded in 1996.

William H. Helfand (1926–2018), a Philadelphia native, pursued a career as a pharmaceutical executive for Merck. His work dovetailed with his collecting interests in prints, posters, and such pharmaceutical ephemera as trade cards and almanacs, and he wrote extensively on their social history.[2] He and his wife, Audrey, endowed positions and fellowships at several institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Grolier Club. In 1998, the couple endowed the NYAM Library fellowship that bears their name, with the first fellowship awarded in the 1999–2000 academic year.

William H. Helfand (1926–2018). Image from the New York Times, October 5, 2018.

From the beginning, the Helfand fellowship supported research on the ways that visual materials enhance the study of the history of medicine, public health, and the medical humanities. Our own Library collections are far richer in these areas because Bill supplemented his endowment with gifts of materials from his own collections, Chief among these is the William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards, which is digitized and available here. In addition to trade cards, Bill gave the Library almanacs, broadsides, caricatures, prints, sheet music, and other medical ephemera. Our Helfand collection is one of many; others can be found at the Huntington Library, Yale University, Duke University, and the Library Company of Philadelphia.

If you are a scholar working on a history of medicine project, please consider our fellowships. Applications are being accepted until September 17, 2021, for a month’s residence at the Library. Successful applicants will be notified by October 22, and the next two fellows may work any time during the 2022 calendar year.

Lists of all the projects that have been supported through these endowments can be found on the fellowship pages for the Klemperer Fellowship and the Helfand Fellowship; application procedures are found there as well.

_________


[1] Baehr, George. “Citation and Presentation of the Academy Medal to Paul Klemperer, MD.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 38, no. 4 (1962): 240; Aronson, S. M. “The legacy of Paul Klemperer.” The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, New York 56, no. 5 (1989): 347–350.

[2]William Helfand, a Collector Intrigued by Quackery, Dies at 92,The New York Times, October 5, 2018.

Cataloging Roundup: New Library Acquisitions in the History of Medicine

by Miranda Schwartz, Cataloger

Founded in 1847 and fast approaching its 175th anniversary in 2022, the Academy Library is a vital part of NYAM. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic we are actively building our collection. As a historical library, we acquire books on a variety of topics in the history of medicine. I wanted to share a few of the titles we added in 2020, so that readers could see the breadth and depth of subjects in our collection. Cataloging these books let me see the fascinating connections among them and the insightful, probing work that is being done today in the history of medicine.

In an occurrence of timely scholarship, a few of our newly acquired titles relate to pandemics:

Epidemics and the Modern World by Mitchell L. Hammond (University of Toronto Press, 2020): This textbook uses primary sources, illustrations, and chapters on key epidemics (bubonic plague, yellow fever, smallpox, HIV/AIDS, etc.) to show how diseases have shaped the modern world.

Florence Under Siege: Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City by John Henderson (Yale University Press, 2019): Henderson’s treatment of the plague in Florence in 1630-31 provides a nuanced, detailed look at this year in the city’s history, with emphasis on the strategies that the government used to manage the crisis.

The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris by Mark Honigsbaum (W. W. Norton, 2019): Honigsbaum looks at the 1918 influenza epidemic, AIDS, SARS, Legionnaires’ disease, Ebola, and Zika. About the spread of infectious diseases, he presciently observes that “Greater global interconnectivity driven by international travel and commerce is undoubtedly a key factor.” 

Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present by Frank M. Snowden (Yale University Press, 2019): Snowden discusses AIDS and influenza, as well as malaria, tuberculosis, smallpox, and yellow fever. Of particular interest now is his final chapter, titled “Dress Rehearsals for the Twenty-First Century: SARS and Ebola.”

The Filth Disease: Typhoid Fever and the Practices of Epidemiology in Victorian England by Jacob Steere-Williams (University of Rochester Press, 2020): Steere-Williams situates typhoid fever in English cultural context and theorizes that this disease and its treatment gave epidemiologists “a new kind of professional identity.”

Our material on the intersection of race, health, and medicine grew with the addition of these titles:

Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840 by Rana A. Hogarth (University of North Carolina Press, 2017): Hogarth explores “physicians’ objectification of black people’s bodies in slave societies” in this work that covers 18th– and 19th-century Atlantic history.

Doctoring Freedom: The Politics of African American Medical Care in Slavery and Emancipation by Gretchen Long (University of North Carolina Press, 2012): An exploration of African American medical culture in the years preceding and following the Civil War. Long asserts that “African American patients and practitioners found themselves in a new medical landscape—one newly shaped both by scientific discovery and by a government that was in the process of recognizing and defining their citizenship.”

Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy by Susan M. Reverby (University of North Carolina Press, 2009): In this notable, meticulously researched book, Reverby analyzes the notorious 40-year Tuskegee Syphilis Study and its legacy of mistrust. She also examines the place “Tuskegee” has in our culture as “the word for racism, experimentation, and government deceit.”

Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation, Samuel Kelton Roberts Jr. (University of North Carolina Press, 2009): Roberts looks at how the “demands and politics of tuberculosis” were managed in the early to mid-20th century, using Baltimore as a case study, while also addressing the issue of racialized medicine in a larger context of race and public health.

The Mismeasure of Minds: Debating Race and Intelligence between Brown and The Bell Curve by Michael E. Staub (University of North Carolina Press, 2018): Staub reexamines well-known psychological studies of race, IQ, and intelligence conducted between 1954 and 1994 with an eye to making clear the persistence of “the racialization of mental testing.”

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A. Washington. (Little, Brown Spark, 2019): NYAM Fellow Harriet Washington looks at lead, chemical pollution, and microbes in her probing of the Black-white IQ gap. She forcefully disputes the idea that this gap is hereditary, pointing instead to the connection between harmful environmental factors and the disproportionate exposure of minority communities to toxic living and working environments.

Another related cluster of books focuses on fertility, pregnancy, motherhood, and maternity:

Maternal Bodies: Redefining Motherhood in Early America by Nora Doyle (University of North Carolina Press, 2018): Doyle’s “redefining” involves centering women’s bodies and experiences in this focused look at women, maternity, childbirth, and motherhood in the United States between 1750 and 1850.

The Myth of the Perfect Pregnancy: A History of Miscarriage in America by Lara Freidenfelds (Oxford University Press, 2020): Miscarriages are common during pregnancy but attitudes and expectations around pregnancy and miscarriage have changed from 18th-century America to today, with changing emotional repercussions for women experiencing an early pregnancy loss.

Revolutionary Conceptions: Women, Fertility & Family Limitations in America, 1760-1820 by Susan E. Klepp (University of North Carolina Press, 2009): A scholarly look at fertility and family planning in early America.

Coming Home: How Midwives Changed Birth by Wendy Kline (Oxford University Press, 2019): Kline tracks changes in birth practices in mid-20th-century America, noting a growing trend toward midwife-assisted home births and away from hospital births attended by an obstetrician. She places this movement in a historical context by using the history of the Chicago Maternity Center and the midwives of The Farm in Tennessee.

I hope this roundup has inspired your interest in our ever-growing collections. For more titles, the Library’s catalog can be explored here. Though we are not able to accept readers because of the pandemic, we look forward to resuming our public hours and, perhaps, seeing you back in the Library in person when it is safe.

World Book Day 2021

By the NYAM Library Team

Since 1995, the United Nations has celebrated World Book Day on April 23. We hope you’ll agree that the NYAM Library is world-class! Library Team members have each selected a book from our vast collection that means something to them. Perhaps these books will mean something for you as well—so endorse our selections in the comments or use the occasion to name books that mean something to you.

Andrea Byrne, Digital Technical Specialist:

Manuale del dilettante del caffè; ossia l’arte de prender sempre del buon caffè (Venice, 1830), translated from French into Italian and written by “M.H.” attributed to Alexandre Martin, first encountered as part of our project with Adam Matthew Digital on food and drink. “It was such an adorable book. It is in a clamshell, and once you open up the clamshell, there is this other smaller compartment inside where the book is stored, and the book is smaller than my hand. Very cute!”

Miranda Schwartz, Cataloger:

Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica … (Basel, 1543). “The publication of this book was a key moment in the study of anatomy, and its illustrations are one of a kind. It’s the starting point for so much scholarship and I think it’s emblematic of the richness of our collections.”

Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian:

Sylvia’s Family management : a book of thrift and cottage economy : a practical cyclopædia of useful knowledge, containing what it is important to know on the essentials of home economy … (London/New York, 188?)

“I’ve chosen this book, rather than one of our early books, because I think it speaks to the experiences many of us have been had during a long period of isolation, without the services we normally take for granted, and how that has prompted people to do things they would not have tried before (so many loaves of sourdough bread!). These kinds of household guides were very popular, and they offered DIY instructions for everything from home brewing to gardening to sewing your own clothing.”

Paul Theerman, Director:

Peter Clemens Kronfeld et al., The human eye in anatomical transparencies; explanatory text [by] Peter C. Kronfeld … anatomical transparencies [by] Gladys McHugh … historical appendix [by] Stephen L. Polyak (Rochester, NY, 1943). “Not only are the book’s transparencies stunning, the work points to the collaborative nature of modern medicine as well as the desire, or even the need, to keep current with ways of representing the human body.”

On World Book Day, we invite you to marvel at the richness of our Library’s holdings, and, above all, to pick up a book!

Uncovering Literature’s Hidden Medical Powers in the NYAM Library

by Angus Fletcher, PhD, 20032004 Audrey and William H. Helfand Fellow

Did you know that after William Shakespeare lost his son Hamnet, he forged a literary invention that can alleviate grief by acting on the emotional circuitry of our brain’s amygdala? Shakespeare tucked it into Hamlet, from where it made its way into modern literary classics such as Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.

Did you know that there are two types of PTSD—and that literature contains therapies for both? The first was devised by Greek playwrights in fifth-century BCE to help military veterans recover from the psychological damage of battle; the second by the modern American cartoonist Alison Bechdel to help survivors of chronic domestic abuse.

And did you know that ancient fairy tales contain an antidote to the mental malady that modern psychiatrists refer to as catastrophizing? Or that the antidote was removed by the 18th-century French author Charles Perrault when he penned his version of Cinderella—which is why it doesn’t exist in the modern fairy tales of Disney’s magic kingdom?

These remarkable—and even fantastical—claims are backed by empirical research that originated during two summer months that I spent at the New York Academy of Medicine Library back in 2003. I had just completed a PhD on Shakespeare at Yale, but my prior background was neuroscience: devoting four years to studying how brain cells communicated and publishing my findings in decidedly nonliterary venues such as The Journal of Biological Chemistry. And, in fact, my focus on the brain was the main reason I had ventured out of a science lab into a literature seminar. I had discovered that the world’s earliest known work of literary criticism, Aristotle’s Poetics, had hypothesized that literature possessed a psychological—in fact, medical—function: purging trauma via a mysterious mechanism termed catharsis.

Despite my curiosity about these matters, I never found anyone willing to fund my research into literature’s healing properties. Until, that is, I approached the New York Academy of Medicine, which granted me $5,000 to devote to exploring the question: Can literature actually do what Aristotle supposed? Can theater, poems, and novels nurture our mental health and well-being?

In the New York Academy of Medicine Library I began grappling with those questions by focusing on a specific case study: the rebellion launched by a group of early-20th-century novelists—Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Virginia Woolf among them—against the “rest cure,” a now discredited psychiatric treatment, chiefly prescribed to women, for “neurasthenia,” or what we might call heightened cognitive reactivity.

To help me understand what the rest cure was—and why Gilman and Woolf found it so repugnant—Arlene Shaner and the New York Academy of Medicine’s librarians took me on a tour of the pseudoscientific works of the rest cure’s inventor, Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, including his eerily titled Fat and blood: an essay on the treatment of certain forms of neurasthenia and hysteria (New York: J. B. Lippincott Co, 1888). From there, I was guided through the Library’s collections to consult a first edition of William James’s Principles of Psychology (New York: Henry Holt, 1890), the textbook that inspired the novelists to replace the rest cure with an alternative literary treatment.

S. Weir Mitchell, Fat and Blood: An Essay on the Treatment of Certain Forms of Neurasthenia and Hysteria, 4th ed. (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1885), title page.

That literary treatment worked by stimulating what James referred to in Principles of Psychology as a “stream of consciousness” whose fluid liquidity gentled the emotional “shocks” of heightened cognitive reactivity.

William James, The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols. (New York: H. Holt and Company, 1890), 1:239, from Chapter IX, “The Stream of Thought.”

Prior to Woolf, versions of that stream had been attempted by novelists such as Marcel Proust, Dorothy Richardson, and James Joyce. But while Proust and Richardson had written in a fluid first-person style, and Joyce had written in an atomistic third-person style, Woolf realized that James’s therapy could more effectively be translated into literature by combining Joyce’s third-person with Proust and Richardson’s fluidity. That combination allows our reading mind to flow above a troubled consciousness, observing its ripples without feeling their shock. Consider this passage from Woolf’s 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway, where the novel’s innovative machinery encourages our thoughts to register the “something awful” while our emotions glide tranquilly past.

What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, ‘Musing among the vegetables?’—was that it?—’I prefer men to cauliflowers’—was that it? He must have said it at breakfast one morning when she had gone out on to the terrace—Peter Walsh. He would be back from India one of these days, June or July, she forgot which, for his letters were awfully dull. . .

George Charles Beresford, “Virginia Woolf in 1902,” via Wikipedia.

The spirit I found in the NYAM Library was as important as the documents I perused there. A physical library in the halls of medicine can seem an old-fashioned thing nowadays, when JAMA pre-publishes its newest articles online and few physicians can spare the time to ensconce themselves in a reading carrel. But I benefited deeply from the reflective experience of having the Library’s physical books, manuscripts, and papers before me as my guide, providing a respite from modern life’s relentless speed and carrying me back to the dwelling places where medicine began: the mind’s curiosity and the heart’s care.

In the many years since, I have gone on to partner with doctors, psychologists, and neuroscientists on collaborative research. Most recently, I have engaged in a three-year longitudinal study with Ohio State’s College of Medicine on how reading novels and memoirs can reduce burnout in medical students. And I have authored dozens of book chapters for university press publishers such as Johns Hopkins, Oxford, and Princeton, and dozens of articles for such scholarly journals as Critical Inquiry, Narrative, and New Literary History on the medical and well-being benefits of literature.

None of this work would have happened without that summer, which became for me, as for the many thousands of seekers who have been given the chance to use the New York Academy of Medicine’s Library, a testament to the power of books. The power age-old but vital as ever. The power to teach, to uplift, and even to heal.

_____

Angus Fletcher is Professor of Story Science at Ohio State’s Project Narrative. A popular account of his research into literature’s medical and well-being effects, including the rest-cure alternative invented by Virginia Woolf, can be found in Wonderworks: The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature (Simon and Schuster, 2021). This work has been praised by Martin Seligman as “enchanting,” by Dr. Rita Charon as “a tour-de-force,” and by Antonio Damasio as “the perfect counter to our season in hell.”

Mary Ann Payne, MD, First Woman President of the New York Academy of Medicine

by Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS, President

During Women’s History Month, we at the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) are celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of women in medicine and health. Dr. Mary Ann Payne (1913–2010) broke new ground as the first woman to lead NYAM, serving as its 63rd president from 1987 to 1988. She stepped in at a critical time in NYAM’s history and successfully led the restructuring of the organization to better serve the health of the public in New York City.


“Mary Ann Payne,” painted by Neill Slaughter, 2011, at the New York Academy of Medicine

Mary Ann Payne was born on August 29, 1913, and grew up in Braddock Heights, Maryland. She attended Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, and then taught high school for four years after graduation. She then went on to further her education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison where she received her MA and PhD in endocrinology, and finally to Cornell University Medical College where she graduated with an MD degree in 1945. Her entire medical career was spent at the college (now Weill Cornell Medicine), where she was a clinical professor of medicine and attending physician at New York Hospital.(1) Highlights of her early career included receiving the Major Arnold H. Golding Fellowship, for research on the mechanism of high blood pressure, and having an audience with Pope Pius XII in 1947.(2) Payne rose to become a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell. She also spent time working with the Communicable Disease Center, caring for members of the Navajo and Hopi tribes with hepatitis and treating tuberculosis among Alaska Natives.(3)

Payne became a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine in 1953 and served as a member of its Committee on Medical Education, vice president, and trustee. In 1987 she assumed the presidency as the first woman to hold that office. Hers was the third-to-last presidency under NYAM’s former structure.(4) Since 1847, the presidency had been a two-year honorary position. The incumbent was a Fellow and chiefly worked with other Fellows. By the early 20th century, NYAM staff reported to an executive director, and William Stubing had taken on that role in 1986. In the words of the official history, upon his hire he “visited a number of Foundation executives to discuss the potential of the Academy as an institution that could make a positive contribution towards alleviating health problems in the City. He was quite candid in his approach to these individuals, indicating the Academy had great potential that was not being achieved primarily due to its financial constraints.”(5) The trustees, the NYAM governing body responsible for fiscal affairs, led by Dr. Payne, secured the services of an outside consultant, Cambridge Associates, Inc., to review the organization’s finances. Its report recommended a series of reforms, which Payne and the trustees accepted in October 1987—a scant 10 days after Black Monday, when the stock market suffered a 25% drop in its value! NYAM’s financial reforms only pointed to a deeper problem within its structure, however. The same day that the trustees accepted the financial report, Payne reported to the Council—the NYAM governing body that oversaw its medical and public health activities—that “in her judgment, the Academy’s existing resources were insufficient to support its present program.”(6) Change was needed.

The Council set up a Committee on Strategic Planning with Payne as chair, tasked to “examine and redefine the Academy’s mission; review existing programs, consider new initiatives and establish new priorities.”(7) Everything was on the table! Cambridge Associates was reengaged to assist in this broader reassessment and provided a sobering report to the Council in March 1989. Addressing a lack of clear management structure, the report called for significant changes, most significantly establishing a full-time president with overall authority for the Academy and significantly reducing the large number of committees that had a hand in governance. The dual structure of a Council and a Board of Trustees would be eliminated, retaining just the Board. Although Payne’s presidential term had ended three months earlier, she continued to lead the process as chair of the Committee on Strategic Planning. Throughout 1989 the Fellows debated the proposals; they were overwhelmingly adopted at a special meeting on August 7, 1989. On July 1, 1990, Dr. Jeremiah A. Barondess took office under the new structure as the first full-time president of the New York Academy of Medicine.(8)


“Mary Ann Payne, M.D.” undated, published when she received the Academy Plaque in 1991. (“Academy Plaque,” 635.)

Mary Ann Payne retired in the late 1970s or 1980s—the date is not clear—while retaining attending privileges at New York Hospital. In retirement she undertook voyages to the Antarctic and Tierra del Fuego to help band penguins as a volunteer for the American Museum of Natural History.(9) NYAM honored her contributions with the Academy Plaque in 1991. At his presentation speech, Dr. Martin Cherkasky, former chair of the Board of Trustees, noted that “the very fact that she was able to overcome the conservatism of this body in matters of leadership indicates what a powerful, impressive figure she is.”(10) In 1998 Payne moved to a retirement home in Ithaca, New York, where she died on March 24, 2010.

_____

Notes

1. Obituary; “Academy Plaque.”

2. “Gets Golding Fellowship”; “Catholic Information from Abroad.”

3. Obituary.

4. Lieberman and Warshaw, 252.

5. Lieberman and Warshaw, 253.

6. Lieberman and Warshaw, 255.

7. Lieberman and Warshaw, 256.

8. Lieberman and Warshaw, 263–64, 272.

9. “Academy Plaque,” 636.

10. “Academy Plaque,” 634.

References

“Catholic Information from Abroad,” The Catholic Herald, 18 July 1947, p. 8: http://archive-uat.catholicherald.co.uk/article/18th-july-1947/8/catholic-information-from-abroad

“Gets Golding Fellowship for Medical Research: Mary Ann Payne,” The New York Times, January 9, 1949, p. 30: https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1949/01/07/84186377.html?pageNumber=30

Martin Cherkasky, MD, “Presentation of the Academy Plaque to Mary Ann Payne, M.D.,” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 67 (Nov–Dec 1991): 634–37: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1809858/pdf/bullnyacadmed00011-0130.pdf

Marvin Lieberman and Leon J. Warshaw, The New York Academy of Medicine, 1947–1997: Enhancing the Health of the Public (Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Company, 1998).

“Mary Ann Payne, M.D.” Obituary, The Miami Herald, via Legacy.com: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/herald/obituary.aspx?n=mary-ann-payne&pid=143125822

Janet Doe, NYAM’s First Woman Library Director

By Paul Theerman, Director

Janet Doe (1895–1985) spent 30 years with the New York Academy of Medicine, from the opening of its new building in 1926 until her retirement in 1956. In retirement she continued to shape the profession, as consultant and expert. Her contributions to medical librarianship led to her being honored through the establishment in 1966 of the Medical Library Association’s most prestigious lecture, the Janet Doe Lecture, for “unique perspectives on the history or philosophy of medical librarianship.”1

Janet Doe, circa 1949.

Doe came to library work right after World War I. A 1917 Wellesley graduate in science, she entered a nursing training program at Vassar, followed by clinical training at Presbyterian Hospital, where she attended the rush of influenza patients.2 At the same time she took up work as an untrained aide at the New York Public Library. After a knee injury cut short her fledgling nursing career, she moved full time to the NYPL library school. With formal training in librarianship and a background in medicine, she was recruited in 1923 to the library of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University). Three years later, she moved to NYAM as head of periodicals; in 1929 she was appointed Assistant Librarian, and upon Archibald Malloch’s retirement in 1949 she became Librarian, as the director’s title was then known. Doe held this position for the next seven years, until her own retirement in 1956. Looking back on her tenure as the first woman to lead the Academy Library, she reported “no special difficulties whatever” because of her gender.3

During her 30-year tenure at the Academy, Doe saw many changes. She began soon after the Academy’s new building opened in 1926, and she was here when the extension to that building was constructed in 1933, with new stacks and offices and its jewel, the Rare Book Room. As head of periodicals and carrying on into her supervisory roles, she oversaw the main work of the Library: meeting the information needs of physicians.4 The Library met these needs chiefly through its extensive medical journal holdings, maintaining subscriptions to some 2,500 titles and welcoming anyone, not just Academy Fellows, to use them.5 All along, the Library continued to add contemporary medical books and reports, building up a “comprehensive research collection . . . its most important contribution.”6 The Library continued to add to the historical collections as well. It purchased the Edward Clark Streeter Collection of rare books in 1928; the Margaret Barclay Wilson collection on food and cookery came by donation in 1929; and the John Greenwood collection, including George Washington’s dentures, came to the Library in 1937.7

In many ways, Doe’s tenure was the last where the Library—indeed, any research library—functioned as essentially a stand-alone institution. Users came to the books; the books—or the information contained therein—did not come to them. Still in the future was the large-scale national and international sharing of information and resources that automation and then the internet made possible. Above all, the country lacked a truly national medical library with coordinating responsibilities for all medical literature. These developments came about after Janet Doe retired. Part of her story is how she helped to them to be realized, through raising the skills of librarians and supporting newer medical libraries, and by helping to establish the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

A great impetus came from the significant expansion of medical libraries that she saw during her career. Some were medical school libraries; many were hospital libraries. Of the latter, Doe reported that “[they] were poor; they had mostly untrained librarians and were only perhaps open half time.”8 As president of MLA in 1949 she shepherded through a certification program for medical librarians as a way of raising the skills and capacities of the profession. While MLA’s continuing education courses helped train a new generation of specialized medical librarians, this was not enough. To supplement those courses in 1942 she developed the Handbook of medical library practice,9 for which she served as editor, as well as co-editor of the 1956 second edition. Doe also supported new medical school libraries. In 1949 she facilitated the donation of 12,000 duplicate medical books and journals to the library of Southwestern Medical College in Dallas, Texas, founded just a few years previously.10

Janet Doe is far right in this photograph of Honorary Consultants to the Army Medical Library, from Betsy L. Humphreys’s Janet Doe Lecture: “Adjusting to progress: interactions between the National Library of Medicine and health sciences librarians, 1961–2001.”

Doe was also instrumental in establishing the Army Medical Library as the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Starting in 1944, she was one of the “surveyors” of the Army Medical Library, leading to The National Medical Library, Report of a Survey of the Army Medical Library.11 This work guided reform at that library and began the campaign to transform it into a national medical library; Doe remained active as a consultant. On April 10, 1956, in her last public appearance before her retirement, Doe testified before Congress on behalf of a bill to establish NLM, and later she worked to secure its grant-making authority.12

Three of Janet Doe’s publications deserve further mention: the Bibliography of the works of Ambroise Paré 13 was her foray into classic bibliography; in a 1953 article, “Opportunities for women in medicine: medical librarianship,”14 she both acknowledged that most medical librarians were women and saw that field as a path for career development; and, in a work done after her retirement to Katonah, New York, a village in northern Westchester County, “The Development of Medical Practice in Bedford Township, New York, Particularly in the Area of Katonah,”15 she provided a survey from colonial times to the present. Doe died in 1985, at the age of 90.


Notes

All links current as of March 10, 2021.

1For a précis of Doe’s career and significant publications, please see the Medical Library Association’s “Doe, Janet,” https://www.mlanet.org/blog/doe,-janet, and for a summary of her MLA oral history, “Doe, Janet (AHIP, FMLA),” https://www.mlanet.org/p/bl/et/blogid=52&blogaid=333. The language describing the Janet Doe Lecture is from https://www.mlanet.org/p/cm/ld/fid=26.

2Pat L. Walter, “A small window on Janet Doe’s life,” Bull Med Libr Assoc. 2001 Jan; 89(1): 83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC31711/.

3“MLA Oral History Committee Interview with Janet Doe,” Medical Library Association Oral History Program, interview by Estelle Brodman, July 20, 1977; approved August 19, 1977; https://catalog.nyam.org/cgi-bin/koha/opac-detail.pl?biblionumber=30365

4“The library exists first and foremost for the physicians, their needs are what it is designed to meet, and towards which its major energies are spent.” Janet Doe, “The Library of the Academy of Medicine,” November 15, 1951, talk and broadcast. On November 15, 1951, Doe spoke to a group of physicians in the Academy lecture series “For Doctors Only.” The talk was eventually broadcast on WNYC, the city’s publicly owned station, and NYPR Archives has digitized it: https://www.wnyc.org/story/the-library-of-the-academy-of-medicine/.

5Journals form the bulk of the Library’s collections, and the Library’s catalog contains bibliographical entries for over 22,000 journal titles. The figure of 2,500 active journal subscriptions comes from Doe’s talk on November 15, 1951. Since 1878, the Academy Library has been open to the public.

6Doe, “The Library of the Academy of Medicine”: “This last function, that of the comprehensive research collection, is for certain, its most important contribution. There are many other working medical libraries in New York City, some 60 or so at least, for every live medical institution of any size must have a library of sorts. But the broadly based reference library possessing the seldom called for, but occasionally indispensable report is a necessity for a research center such as New York has become.”

7For Library history highlights, please see the Library Timeline.

8Here and below the content is from “MLA Oral History Committee Interview with Janet Doe.”

9Janet Doe, ed. Handbook of medical library practice (Chicago: American Library Association, 1942).

10“Medical News,” JAMA 1949 Nov 19; 141(12): 854.

11Keyes D. Metcalf, Janet Doe, Thomas P. Fleming, et al., The National medical library; report of a survey of the Army Medical Library, financed by the Rockefeller Foundation and made under the auspices of the American Library Association (Chicago: American Library Association, 1944).

12“MLA Oral History Committee Interview with Janet Doe”; Kent A. Smith, “Laws, leaders, and legends of the modern National Library of Medicine,” J Med Libr Assoc. 2008 Apr; 96(2): 121–133.

13Janet Doe, Bibliography of the works of Ambroise Paré: premier chirurgien & conseiller du roy (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1937).

14Idem, “Opportunities for women in medicine: medical librarianship,” J Am Med Women’s Assoc. 1953 Dec; 8(12):414-6.

15Idem, “The Development of Medical Practice in Bedford Township, New York, Particularly in the Area of Katonah,” Bull Med Libr Assoc. 1961 Jan; 49(1 Pt 1): 1–23.

NYAM’s First Black Fellow

by Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian

In February of 1847, when the New York Academy of Medicine was just a month old, two founding Fellows of the Academy nominated Dr. James McCune Smith for fellowship, that is, formal membership in what was being set up as an elite medical organization. Smith was the first professionally trained African American physician in the United States, although he earned his degrees at the University of Glasgow, having been unable to gain admission to an American medical school because of his race. An accomplished physician who met all the criteria for fellowship, Smith was denied admission to the Academy at that time. In 2018 the Academy finally redressed that wrong by awarding him fellowship posthumously, 171 years later.

The identity of the first Black physician to become a Fellow of the Academy remained a mystery, though. Puzzling it out required reading a chapter of a frequently consulted resource, Gerald Spencer’s Medical Symphony, in a different way. Spencer was the subject of a blog post back in 2014, and his book, despite its frustrating lack of citations, provides a wealth of information about the contributions of Black Americans to medicine in New York. Chapter VII focuses on membership in local medical organizations, beginning with a section on the various county medical societies, and moving on to NYAM and others. A list of Black Americans who had been elected as Fellows by 1947, when Spencer’s book was published, appears on page 75:

Gerald Spencer, Medical Symphony (New York, 1947).

The first name on that list is Dr. Peter M. Murray. While Spencer never states that the names are listed in chronological order of election, an examination of the minutes of the Committee on Admissions confirms that this is the case. Murray appeared on the waiting list of nominees on April 6, 1932, along with the names of his three recommenders, and on January 4, 1933, he was one of 17 physicians who were recommended for fellowship. For unexplained reasons, he was not elected at that time, and he was recommended again on November 6, 1935. He was formally elected at the first stated meeting of 1936 and so became the first African American Fellow of The New York Academy of Medicine.

Physicians recommended for fellowship, NYAM Committee on Admission Minute Book, January 4, 1933, NYAM Archives. Murray’s name is 4th from the bottom.

When Murray became a Fellow in 1936, most of his major accomplishments lay ahead, although he was at the time of his nomination the president of the National Medical Association, the alternative to the American Medical Association set up by Black physicians who were often denied membership in the AMA because of their inability to join their local medical societies.

The child of a longshoreman and a laundress, Murray was born in 1888 in Houma, Louisiana. His family moved to New Orleans when he was 12, and his mother became a practical nurse at the New Orleans Women’s Hospital and Infirmary. Her experience there led her to suggest a medical career to her son. Murray graduated from New Orleans University in 1910 and got his medical degree from Howard University four years later. He then began his career as an intern at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and continued working at the hospital as an assistant clinical professor of surgery and developing expertise in obstetrics and gynecology. At the same time, he took an appointment as a medical inspector for the public schools.

In his 1967 Journal of the National Medical Association biographical profile of Murray, W. Montague Cobb noted that “while President Woodrow Wilson was ‘Saving the World for Democracy’ and promoting the League of Nations abroad, Negro Federal employees were being discriminated against more than ever at home.”[1] Both Murray and his wife, Charlotte (Wallace), a professional singer and music teacher, felt that more opportunities would be available to them in New York, and moved there in 1921. Murray shared a Harlem medical office with Dr. Wiley Merlio Wilson, whom he had known when he was a Howard student, and initially he practiced surgery at the Wiley Wilson Sanitarium, a private hospital that Wilson opened due to the lack of opportunities to practice in other New York hospitals. The Harvard-trained Dr. Louis T. Wright,[2] had joined the staff of the public Harlem Hospital in 1919, and Harlem Hospital became the only New York institution where Black American physicians stood a chance of finding employment. Murray eventually joined the staff there in 1928 and later worked at two other hospitals, Sydenham and St. Clare’s, as well.

“Peter M. Murray, M.D.,” from Gerald D. Dorman, “Presentation of the Academy plaque to Peter M. Murray, MD.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 45, no. 8 (1969): 729.

One of Murray’s most important accomplishments occurred in 1949, when the New York State Medical Society elected him as one of its representatives to the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association. He was at that time the only Black physician from anywhere in the country elected to serve as a delegate, and he continued in that role through 1961. He was also elected president of the Medical Society of the County of New York for 1954–55. It is possible that Murray’s support of the AMA’s opposition to the development of a national health insurance program in the 1940s played a part in those elections. He took the idea of broader service to the medical profession extremely seriously, though, accepting seats on the boards of trustees of Howard University, the State University of New York, and the National Medical Fellowships; appointment to the Board of Hospitals of the City of New York; a term as vice president of the Hospital Council of Greater New York; and membership in the President’s National Medical Advisory Committee on Health Resources.[3]

Service to NYAM also mattered to him, and he spent over 20 years as a member of the Committee on Medical Education, as well as serving on a variety of other subcommittees. In acknowledgment of his many accomplishments, both inside and outside of the Academy, he was awarded the Academy Plaque, which recognizes extraordinary service to NYAM, at the April 1969 annual meeting, just eight months before his death on December 19.[4]


[1] Cobb, W. Montague. “Peter Marshall Murray, MD, 1888.” Journal of the National Medical Association 59, no. 1 (1967), p. 73.

[2] Louis T. Wright was, in fact, recommended for NYAM fellowship in 1928. After a challenge, the recommendation went through on October 1, 1930, but at the November 6, 1930, stated meeting the Fellows declined to elect him.

[3] Cobb, pp. 71, 74.

[4] Dorman, Gerald D. “Presentation of the Academy plaque to Peter M. Murray, MD.” Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 45, no. 8 (1969): 728.

Color Our Collections 2021

by the NYAM Library Team

Our annual Color Our Collections week kicks off today! From February 1st through 5th libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions showcase their collections through free, downloadable coloring books. A hundred books or so are gathered at ColorOurCollections.org. Follow #ColorOurCollections2021 on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms to participate.

The NYAM Library’s coloring book presents images from the Renaissance to the 20th century. Here are a few coloring sheets to help while away your hours; for more, check out our whole coloring book.

From Diversions for the Sick, published by the Life Conservation Service of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company (Boston, around 1938).
“Melon,” from Elizabeth Blackwell’s collection of botanical plates, A curious herbal (London, 1739).
“Gyre Falcon,” from Ulisse Aldrovandi, Ornithologiae . . . (Bologna, 1599).

Enjoy!