This year, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, giving women the right to vote.
It was the culmination of a movement that began years before 1848, when a group of abolitionist activists gathered in Seneca Falls, N.Y., to discuss women’s rights. They were invited there by the reformers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. That meeting officially concluded that women have a right to education in professions and ultimately began the struggle to pursue the right to vote.
That right became law 72 years later, too long for the founders of the suffrage movement to see it. Events are scheduled around the country this year to celebrate the landmark occasion of women’s suffrage.
Florence Wharton, a resident of Langhorne Borough and a founding member of the Historic Langhorne Association, is one person promoting the centennial celebration. A former neighbor on North Bellevue Avenue, I know her as Floss.
She has turned her attention to women who were either born or lived in the borough and Bucks County when they succeeded in accomplishing ambitions far beyond the limitations imposed on their gender.
Once known as Four Lanes End and later Attleborough, the town is situated at an important intersection, all the way back to Colonial days – the Durham Road, between Bristol and Easton, and Maple Avenue, between Philadelphia and Trenton, N.J. By the middle of the 19th century Attleborough was a thriving center of commerce.
That’s when the Longshores, a Quaker family, lived in the town and Dr. Joseph Longshore became one of the founders of Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Among other things, he wanted the women of his family to have an opportunity to become physicians.
“What higher trust could be dedicated to the wife and mother than the guardianship of the health of the household,” he declared in his introductory lecture to the first class at the college.
He drafted a charter for a women’s college in 1849. His friend, James Flowers, a member of the state Assembly, led it through the Pennsylvania Legislature.
Men, of couse, formed the first board of trustees. They included the Rev. Albert Barnes, the Rev. S. Porter, William Darrah Kelley, Thaddeus Stevens, John Bouvier, George R. McFarlane, Dr. William J.A. Birkey, William J. Mullen, Charles J. Bleck, James Flowers and James Mott, husband of Lucretia.
It was difficult to hire faculty to teach women; most doctors refused. Medical journals would not publish women’s work or accept promotional advertisements for the school and no hospital would accept women for clinical experience. Eventually the women medical students practiced on poor and indigent residents at a Philadelphia almshouse.
The Female Medical College was the first in the world to train women for the degree of Doctor of Medicine. The first degrees were awarded in 1851. Anna-Mary Longshore-Potts, and her sister-in-law Hannah Myers Longshore were in the college’s first graduation class of seven women.
Anna-Mary was born in Attleborough in 1829. She was the youngest of 10 children of Abraham and Rhoda Longshore and the sister of Joseph. She married Lambert Hibbs Potts from Solebury, in 1854 and they had a son, Emerson Potts. Anna-Mary established a practice in Philadelphia, but health problems forced her to return to Attleborough in 1857. The couple moved to Adrian, Mich., where Lambert had a sales business; the marriage ended in divorce.
An early advocate of preventive medicine, Anna-Mary began presenting public lectures on health topics around the country and abroad. At a lecture in New York in 1887, she said, “If knowledge of practical physiology was as generally diffused as knowledge of mathematics, sickness would be rare.” She settled in San Diego after her husband died and founded the Paradise Valley Sanitarium with her brother.
Hannah was born in Sandy Spring, Md., daughter of Samuel and Paulina Myers, who were Quakers originally from Bucks County. Samuel, a school teacher, moved his family to New Lisbon, Ohio, to distance himself from slavery in the Washington area. Hannah married Thomas E. Longshore a teacher at the New Lisbon Academy, and Anna-Mary’s brother.
An abolitionist, he lost his teaching position because of his anti-slavery convictions. Thomas, Hannah and their two children returned to Attleboro where Thomas taught at the Quaker school.
Hannah, mother of two children, enrolled at the Female Medical College at 31. After graduation, she accepted a position at the New England Female Medical College in Boston.
Hannah began her own private practice in 1858, becoming the first woman doctor with a private practice in the city of Philadelphia. Hannah’s early work had significant challenges – many male doctors would not consult with her, many pharmacists would not fill her prescriptions so she made her own.
“On one occasion,” Floss Wharton said, Hannah was told to “go home and darn her husband’s stockings.” But her medical practice grew and Hannah worked until 1892.
“The college moved to its most recent location in East Falls in 1930. In 1970, the Women’s Medical College admitted men and changed its name to Medical College of Pennsylvania,” according to a history by Melissa M. Mandell. “In 1995, the Medical College of Pennsylvania merged with Hahnemann University’s medical school (founded in 1848), operating under several organizational structures until it was established as the Drexel University College of Medicine in 2002.”
As 2020 proceeds there will be much more to tell about women in history and many celebrations, especially since the Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923, has yet to pass. In January, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment, which guarantees equal legal rights to citizens regardless of sex.
Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. But the Virginia ratification was beyond the deadline of 1982 for ratification by 38 states. In January 2020, the House of Representatives voted 232 to 183 to repeal the deadline. Bucks County’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-01) was among five Republicans to vote for reintroduction of the amendment.