By Katie Lattal, Special Collections Librarian
Marie J. Mergler, MD graduated as valedictorian for the 1879 class of the Woman’s Hospital Medical College (later the Woman’s Medical School). She became a well-known gynecologist and was one of the top-ranked abdominal surgeons in Chicago, male or female. She taught at her alma mater, where she climbed the ranks from assistant to professor to chair of the gynecology department, and finally, to dean. She served on staff at many Chicago hospitals and became the head physician and surgeon at the Mary Thompson Hospital when Thompson passed away.
All told, Mergler spent half of her life connected to the Woman’s Medical School. She was completely dedicated to her patients and students, so much so that she died on her 50th birthday from pernicious anemia, likely brought on by overwork and exhaustion.
Mergler was in the first group of women allowed to compete for highly-sought internships at Cook County’s medical facilities. Despite earning the highest marks and thus securing an appointment at the Cook County Insane Asylum, Mergler was denied the position as it was deemed unsuitable for a woman.
Mergler remembering the Cook County intern exam:
Marie Mergler, “History of the Competitive Examinations,” in Woman’s Medical School, Northwestern University (Woman's Medical College of Chicago): its Institutions and its Founder, Class Histories, 1870-1896 (Chicago: H.G. Cutler, 1896), 87-88.