This spring, Drexel University College of Medicine's Archives and Special Collections on Women in Medicine and Homeopathy led a collaborative project with the Philadelphia High School for Girls. The two institutions share a history of educating women. Girls High was founded in 1848 as a normal school for educating female teachers, and just two years later in 1850 one of the College of Medicine's predecessor institutions, the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, began training women physicians.
The project, titled History in Our Own Backyard: Woman's Med and Girls' High, was funded through the History Channel's Save Our History program. The program aims to connect institutions and support their efforts to preserve and teach local history. Archives staff led 25 Girls' High juniors in transcribing nineteenth century letters using high-resolution images from the digital collection [http://xdl.drexelmed.edu/]. Students also visited the Archives' stacks, where they received a document handling lesson and learned about preservation, conservation, and the history of both Woman's Med and Girls' High.
In addition to hundreds of pages of full-text searchable transcriptions for our digital collection, the Archives has now built a strong relationship with a local public magnet school, which we believe will lead to future collaborations. The staff also learned a great deal about working with high school students and faculty, a growing user group for our Archives.
The students received community service credit for their hours of work on the project, as well as a new understanding of local history and how it is preserved. Some of them are hoping to pursue careers in medicine. One student stated, “If [women physicians] could achieve their dreams, when women had minimal rights…I can certainly do the same.” It is clear that the letters and other writings of nineteenth century pioneer women physicians has fueled the ambitions of tomorrow’s women doctors.