New memoir spotlights pioneering female surgeon's WWI service

“There has been a call for nurses and doctors to the Red Cross, for work abroad,” Mary Crawford 1904, MD 1907, wrote shortly after World War I began. “Tomorrow I’m going to find out if any women doctors need apply, and if so, what sort of work they’d be allowed to do. If only laboratory work, it doesn’t appeal, but if practical caring for the sick or injured, I’m getting on the list.”

When Crawford penned this letter to her future husband, the U.S. was still three years away from entering the Great War, and there were few avenues for American women to aid the Allied powers overseas.

Crawford seized the opportunity to provide hands-on aid to the war effort.

In October 1914—during an era when women comprised less than 5% of U.S. medical doctors—she left her private surgical practice in Brooklyn to work in a hospital near Paris just a few months after the war broke out, becoming one of the first female MDs to treat troops in WWI.

Her time abroad, and the months leading up to her departure, have been chronicled in a new book: This Ghastly War: The Diary and Letters of a Woman Doctor in the American Ambulance Hospital in France, 1914­–1915.

Read the full story on the Cornellians website.

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Black and white photo from 1914: a woman in a dark suit and hat highlighted by flowers stands on a wooden dock
Mary Crawford, awaiting the nine-day voyage to France in 1914