First Women at the University of Missouri School of Medicine

The University of Missouri School of Medicine was the first publicly supported medical school west of the Mississippi River. Organized as a two-year school in 1872, the program expanded to 3 years in 1891 and then to 4 years in 1892. The University of Missouri School of Medicine began accepting women as students in 1897. Many women attended the school, though only a hand-full completed the four-year medical degree between 1900 and 1908, when the school reverted to a two-year “half-school” curriculum. In 1957 the School re-established the four-year medical degree program.

The first woman to graduate from the University of Missouri with a medical degree was Anna B. Searcy in 1900. She was followed by Jane E. Dunaway in 1905, Grace Scholz and Ruth Seevers in 1906, and Lake Brewer in 1908.

Searcy practiced medicine for about a dozen years in rural Missouri, first in Middlegrove and then in Anabel. Ruth Seevers returned to her hometown of Osceola, Missouri after receiving her degree. She practiced medicine for over 70 years, retiring in 1977. Lake Brewer returned to her hometown of Ridgeway, Missouri where she practiced for 50 years.

Dunaway, born in 1879 near Stockton, Missouri, taught in rural schools for four years to save up the money to attend the University of Missouri School of Medicine. She practiced general medicine for several years in Oklahoma and Puerto Rico, then switched to specializing in the treatment of emotionally and mentally disturbed patients. She worked for a time at the State Mental Hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri, before moving to the Warren State Mental Hospital in Pennsylvania. Dunaway practiced in mental hospitals and sanatoriums in Pennsylvania until her retirement in 1960.

The first woman to join the faculty of the University of Missouri School of Medicine was Caroline McGill, who in 1906 was an instructor in Anatomy. McGill had been a student in the School of Medicine from 1902 to 1905, though she eventually earned her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1914.

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The University of Missouri Digital Library provides electronic access to over 100 years of the School’s yearbook, The Savitar. Use the links below to view pages from The Savitar featuring photographs of the first women at the University’s School of Medicine.