1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Inventory

5.   Subjects

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 Providence Physiological Society Records

 Records, 1850-1862

 Size: 0.25 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 649

 Processed by: Kim Nusco, July 2001

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The Providence Physiological Society was founded in 1850, inspired by a series of lectures on anatomy and physiology delivered by noted feminist Paulina Wright Davis. For twelve years, the Society sponsored monthly lectures and meetings, attended mostly by women. Though the minutes in this collection record criticism from the male medical establishment and mention some public resistance to the Society's mission, the Physiological Society hosted many distinguished speakers, both male and female. Many lectures were given by the Society's members, including Davis, who served as Corresponding Secretary, and Dr. Martha H. Mowry, one of the first female physicians practicing in Rhode Island and President of the Society for several years. Topics of lectures ranged from anatomy lessons to discussions of women's rights. Descriptions of these lectures offer interesting insights into the medical theories and social debates of the time.

            The outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and the departure of several prominent members (including Davis) severely curtailed the activities of the Society. The collection does not contain any records of meetings beyond 1862.

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Scope and content:

            The bulk of the collection consists of two minute books, the first containing records of meetings and lectures from 1850 to 1853, the second covering the period of 1857 to 1862. A printed copy of the Society's constitution is pasted into the first minute book. The collection also contains a handwritten membership book which gives the names and street addresses of members from 1850 to 1859. Folder 4 contains drafts of the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Annual Reports. The Tenth report includes a brief history of the Society. Miscellaneous materials include various drafts of minutes, a record of donations received for the purchase of an anatomical model and plates, and two broadside advertisements for the Society, one with handwritten notes on the back.

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            The two minute books were donated by Lucy Metcalf in 1901. The list of members and the miscellaneous materials were donated ca. 1912 by J. B. Thurber.

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Folder 1. Minutes, 1850-1853

Folder 2. Minutes, 1857-1862

Folder 3. Membership book, 1850-1859

Folder 4. Annual reports, 1860-1862

Folder 5. Miscellaneous materials

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Davis, Paulina Wright (1813-1876)

Mowry, Martha H. (1818-1899)

Physiology - Providence, R. I..

Providence, R.I. - Societies and clubs

Women - Health and hygiene

Women - Societies and clubs - Rhode Island - Providence

Women physicians - Rhode Island - Providence

Women's rights - Rhode Island - Providence

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