The First Women on Staff of the Washington University Dispensary

On November 19, 1917, the Executive Faculty of the Washington University School of Medicine agreed that women could be given house staff positions at Barnes and St. Louis Children’s Hospitals. On December 5, 1917 no objection was raised to the idea that women could be given positions on the teaching staff of the Medical School as well. However, as early as 1916 women physicians were appointed to the staff of the Washington University Dispensary, the out-patient clinic for Barnes Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

The first women on the staff of the Washington University Dispensary included Amalie Marie Napier, Harriet Stevens, Adelheid Bedal, Frances L. Bishop, and Dorcas F. Meadows.

Amalie Marie Napier (b. 1867), a 1908 graduate of the Barnes Medical College, was appointed a “voluntary assistant in Ophthalmology” of the Washington University Dispensary on February 2, 1916. In December of the following year Napier was appointed “assistant surgeon to Out Patients” in Ophthalmology. Dr. Napier was appointed to a faculty position in the School of Medicine, assistant in Clinical Ophthalmology, in 1921. She remained on the staff on the Washington University Dispensary (later known as the Washington University Clinics) and on the faculty until the mid-1930s. Prior to her appointment at the Washington University Dispensary, Napier practiced at the Ancon Hospital in Ancon, Panama (then known as the Canal Zone).

On March 6, 1916, Harriet Stevens (b. 1883) was appointed a “voluntary assistant in Pediatrics” at the Washington University Dispensary. Stevens had attended the Washington University Medical School from 1907 to 1909 as a “special student.” She was not allowed to graduate and thus transferred to the Rush Medical College in Chicago, where she completed her medical degree in 1910. Stevens resigned from the Dispensary staff in March 1917, but she continued to practice medicine in St. Louis for many years.

Adelheid C. Bedal (b. 1860) graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1891. She was in general practice in St. Louis from the mid-1890s until 1924. Bedal was appointed a “voluntary assistant” in Medicine at the Washington University Dispensary in December 1916. She worked in the Tuberculosis Division of the Dispensary until 1922. Bedal later became one of the first women to work in the St. Louis City Health Department. Frances L. Bishop (b. 1864), a 1893 graduate of the University of Michigan Department of Medicine and Surgery, came to St. Louis in the mid-1890s. Dr. Bishop was involved in public efforts to combat tuberculosis and co-founded the Missouri Social Hygiene Society. Bishop was appointed an assistant physician in the Tuberculosis Division of the Dispensary in May 1917, serving until her resignation in February or March 1919. In 1903, both Frances Bishop and Adelheid Bedal were admitted to the St. Louis Medical Society.

Dorcas Fidelia Merriman Meadows (1876-1925) was a 1903 graduate of the University of Nashville Medical Department. She was appointed a voluntary assistant in Ophthalmology in 1917 and remained on the Dispensary staff until 1922.