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ZAKRZEWSKA


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ZAKRZEWSKA


Zakrzewska, Marie Elisabeth (1S29- 1902).

Berlin, Prussia, was the birth-place of Marie Zakrzewska, a pioneer woman physician, her father an officer in the Prussian Army was a descendant of a Polish family of liigh rank which shared their country's downfall. Her mother traced descent from a gipsy queen of the tribe of Lombardi. The greatgrand- mother went through the events of the Seven Years' War as assistant-surgeon to her father, an army-surgeon, her daughter was a veterinary surgeon and Marie's mother studied and followed the profession of midwife when her husband was dismissed from the army on account of his revolutionary tendencies.

^larie was the eldest of a family of five sisters and one brother.

When eleven years old she was taken by a doctor to the dead house of a hos- pital to see the corpse of a young man whose body had turned green from poison; she was left to roam at will in the dissecting rooms and later was forgotten and locked alone in the dead house until late at night.

She was, also, about this time given two books to read, "The History of Surgery" and "History of Midwifery," and her school days ended when she was thirteen.

The mother's practice was by this time arge and increasing and Marie assisted her mother wherever possible. Marie, when twenty was admitted as student in the Berhn School of Midwifery, but only after a direct appeal to the King by Dr. Schmidt, a prominent physician of the school, himself in failing health. It was planned that Marie should eventually be chief accoucheur in the Hospital Charite and professor of midwifery when he resigned. Marie met with untold oppo- sition, which was only overcome through


Dr. Schmidt's tenacity of purpose and the desire of his colleagues to fulfill his dying wishes.

The appointment was granted on May 15, 1852, but enmity was insidious, and in November of the same year she relinquished her position.

The first report of the Pennsylvania Female College had been sent to Dr. Schmidt, and Marie planned to emigrate, a project not executed until March, 1853. The parting from a home to which she was never to return, was, she writes, the hardest moment of her life. A sister accompanied her and after a voyage of forty-seven days the two girls reached New York with the sum of one hundred dollars between them. It was a blow to learn from Dr. Reisig, a friend, that in America, women physicians were of the lowest rank, and her limitations in the English language prevented her from getting in touch with members of the medical profession. Nevertheless, after securing suitable rooms Marie put out her sign but practice did not come. Then Marie turned heroically for a time from her chosen work and started in the trade of supplying embroidered work to the wholesale houses. She %vas soon able to give work to as many as thirty girls and thus earned sufficient to keep in comparative comfort a family of four, for in September a second sister and a friend joined them. From her work girls she gained a lasting impression of the al- most hopeless struggle they waged against a life of shame. The wolf being now a reasonable distance from the door, Marie turned again to her cherished project, and obtained an interview with Dr. Eliza- beth Blackwell, whereby the gates, so long closed, began to swing slowly open to the kingdom of hope.

Dr. Efizabeth Blackwell in\ated Marie to assist in her dispensary, offered to