Celebrating Her Story
The month of March is designated as Women’s History Month to celebrate the contributions and achievements of women across the U.S. and globe. One of the ways Widener will participate in the month-long celebration is by commemorating the life and legacy of Dr. Anna E. Broomall.
Broomall was a pioneer in science and medicine and a staunch advocate for women’s health. She achieved incredible professional success as an obstetrician, teacher and surgeon during a period when female professional ambitions, especially in the field of medicine, were not widely accepted. Her commitment to equality in the health care field and contributions to patient care standards changed the face of medicine.
Born in 1847, Broomall grew up in a Quaker family in Upper Chichester
Township. She attended the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and was one of the first female medical students to attend lectures at Pennsylvania Hospital alongside an all-male student body. Despite enduring remarkable resistance and harassment from her male counterparts, Broomall completed the lecture course, as well as an internship, and earned the opportunity to study obstetrics in Europe.
While in Europe, Broomall witnessed a higher standard of training and patient care. Inspired by these practices, Broomall returned to Philadelphia determined to improve the quality of health care in the U.S.
Her education and training earned her hospital leadership roles including chief resident and chair of obstetrics at the Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia. One of her greatest accomplishments, however, was establishing the nation’s first out-patient maternity care clinic in South Philadelphia. Through her work in the clinic she implemented a system of patient-centered care and focused on the use of antiseptics and innovative delivery procedures such as the Cesarean section.
Broomall retired from medicine in 1903 and moved to Chester in a house at the corner of 13th and Chestnut Streets, an area now part of Widener's campus. Over the next several decades, she turned her efforts to the local community playing an instrumental role in the renovation of the 1724 Courthouse in Chester and volunteering as librarian and curator at the Delaware County Historical Society.
Widener, along with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Delaware County Institute of Science, the Delaware County Historical Society, and the City of Chester, celebrated this female trailblazer at a historical marker dedication in Broomall’s honor.