Medical Heritage Honored at Widener University; Anna Broomall Given Historic Marker

Anna Broomall (1847-1931), a pioneer in women’s medicine and surgery, was recently honored with a historical marker from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). The new marker is located on the premises of Widener University, near where she lived in Delaware County. 

Broomall dedicated the latter part of her medical career to improving the care available to mothers during childbirth and their newborns. To reduce mortality rates, she advocated for delivery methods such as cesarean sections, and as chair of obstetrics at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia, she ensured that nurses were getting the most up-to-date training from Europe.

Broomall also established South Philadelphia’s first outpatient maternity-care clinic.

Reflective of her era, Broomall's journey through her education was not very welcoming. Broomall was one of the first women to attend the all-male lectures at Pennsylvania hospital. In fact, according to Widener professor Kathleen Hornberger, who was one of the advocates for Broomall to get recognition that, “The male students absolutely did not want those female students to be in the classroom…[they] would chase them out of the classroom, throw spitballs at them, hurl insults, chase them down the streets of Philadelphia to get them away from the medical school.”

Despite her immense challenges, Broomall was able to overcome them and break barriers for females to enter the medical field in the late 19th century and has been a role model for many women in maternity care. Widener President, Dr. Julie Wollman, summarized Broomall’s life’s work, “She saw an overwhelming need to improve the quality of patient care, especially for women. Through her research, teaching, and innovative practices, Dr. Broomall helped shape the health-care profession that we enjoy today”.

Read the following article to learn more about Broomall's story:


Article written by Kyle Purchase on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association

Photo credit Delaware County Historical Society