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Sarah Orne Jewett’s depictions of women in a changing medical profession: Nan Prince and Almira Todd
  1. Catherine Hand1,2
  1. 1Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA
  2. 2English, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Catherine Hand, Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine, Fort Smith, AR 72916, USA; chand{at}arcomedu.org

Abstract

Sarah Orne Jewett, who lived from 1849 to 1909, witnessed a revolution in medicine that led to the formation of the medical profession as it is recognised today. By comparing two of the author’s works, one written at the outset of her career and the other written much later, this paper discusses how Jewett’s views about women’s role in medicine changed and developed. In the first novel, A Country Doctor, a young Jewett celebrates the new-found power of scientific medicine in the period directly after germ theory was widely adopted. The author depicts a female physician as a pioneer bravely breaking into a male-dominated field. Later, in The Country of the Pointed Firs, Jewett’s depiction of a female medical practitioner is much more nuanced— the matured writer’s views are accompanied by discrete but deep-seated criticisms of medical ideology as she saw it developing. The comparison of these novels gives us insight into Jewett’s world, and leaves questions for readers today. Most importantly, how should women today approach traditional medicine given the discipline’s deeply misogynist roots? Jewett’s unique perspectives serve as a catalyst for this discussion.

  • feminism
  • comparative literature studies
  • English literature
  • Medical humanities

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Footnotes

  • Correction notice This article has been amended since it was first published online. It was originally published without a CC-BY-NC licence. This has now been amended.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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