________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 17 . . . . April 26, 2002

cover Fabulous Female Physicians. (The Women's Hall of Fame Series).

Sharon Kirsh and Florence Kirsh.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2001.
100pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 1-896764-43-6.

Subject Heading:
Women physicians-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Janet Delgatty.

*** /4


Joy had a telephone installed [at the farm] so that she could be reached through the post office. She moved her office to a room in the local pub and hotel. But because her 'waiting room' was the wide porch of the hotel, everyone who strolled along the main street could see who was visiting the doctor that day. There was absolutely no privacy. Another difficulty was that when the pub owner drank too much, he would follow Joy around asking, 'What's the matter with that one, doc?'

That was the last straw. Joy moved the office again, to a shed situated behind a gas station. Unfortunately the shed was not soundproof, and on Saturday mornings children would gather around behind it with their ears to the wall. Listening to what was going on in the office was the best free entertainment of the week.

Ten female doctors from around the world are profiled in short chapters, from 4 to 9 pages each, in this engaging book. After an introduction that briefly looks at ancient women healers from legend and history, each of the ten subjects has her own chapter. Each profile includes a photo or portrait, birth/death dates, historical context, personal challenges, type of medical career, and accomplishments. Such a description sounds dry and dusty, but the text is anything but.

     The women are spoken of by their first names, creating a sense of intimacy. Each profile begins with a childhood anecdote. Elements of drama in each woman's personal life are included, so this is not just a list of accomplishments. Readers learn that Maria Montessori was an unwed mother, and that Lucille Teasdale performed surgery one day after giving birth, "wanting to be as strong as her African friends and patients."

     Physicians profiled include Canadian Emily Stowe, who had to go to the U.S. to attend medical school in the 1860's because no medical school in Canada accepted women. As a single mother of three children after her husband died, Stowe needed to support the family. Susan LaFlesche Picotte was the first female Native American physician, graduating in 1889. Jerusha Jirad, who became a doctor in 1912 at age 21, was a member of "the Bene-Israel, a group of Jews thought to be one of the Twelve Lost Tribes of Israel, who had arrived in India two thousand years earlier." Others profiled were either from, or worked in, Haiti, the United States, Uganda, the Philippines, Italy, and Australia. The last physician profiled is Canadian Dr. Nadine Caron, born in 1970 of Ojibway and Italian heritage, whose career is still going strong.

     What makes this book noteworthy? Kirsh and Kirsh make the women come alive. The profiles are short, warmly human and engaging. Boxed sidebars are a visual break from the text. Photos and illustrations are well chosen, although all but the cover are black and white. Most pages have either a photo or a sidebar.

     The dark cover and low quality paper make this a book that does not have immediate appeal. It would benefit from book talking or recommendations. Otherwise, it probably will only circulate for school projects or to someone interested in the subject in and of itself. And it's far too good to languish on the shelf!

     Fabulous Female Physicians includes a glossary, Internet sources, and print sources. Sharon Kirsh is a Toronto psychologist, teacher, and writer originally from Nova Scotia. Her novel, Fitting In, was shortlisted for a Red Cedar award. This is the first book for Florence Kirsh, Sharon's mother.


Janet Delgatty is Collections Librarian-Children's Services with Vancouver Island Regional Library, based in Nanaimo, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364