McLaren Celebrates Women's History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, McLaren Health Care is proud to honor those women who have blazed trails and made a difference in the health field. We start with one of our own.


Margaret McLaren, RN

Margaret McLaren, RN served as the Superintendent of the Women’s Hospital in Flint for 28 years. She was instrumental in obtaining the funding to construct a new hospital at a new location. Once completed, the hospital at 401 South Ballenger Street was named McLaren General Hospital. Seventy years later, the first McLaren hospital still stands at this location; however, it has grown to a 378-bed facility. 


Now, 15 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, imaging centers, a primary care physician network, home health and hospice services, health care coverage, and more make up McLaren Health Care. Margaret McLaren’s legacy lives on through the more than 20,000 caring team members dedicated to the patients we serve.


Learn more about Margaret McLaren, RN and the history of McLaren Health Care here.


Elizabeth Blackwell, MD

In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell, MD became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S. 


Dr. Blackwell was inspired to get her medical degree when a dying friend told her she would have gotten better care from a female doctor. She applied to more than ten medical schools, each rejecting her. A professor even suggested disguising herself as male, but she refused. Eventually, male students at Geneva Medical College in New York agreed to admit her after thinking the question for their opinion was a joke.


After gaining her degree, it was not easy for Dr. Blackwell to find a job, so she co-founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children in 1857. Learn more about Dr. Blackwell here.



Ann Preston, MD

In 1866, Ann Preston, MD made history when she became the first woman dean of a U.S. medical school. Her journey was a bit of a challenge.


When Dr. Preston decided to go after her dream of becoming a doctor, she applied to all four of the medical schools in Philadelphia at the time. All four rejected her application. Finally, in 1850, Dr. Preston started medical school at Female Medical College of Pennsylvania (later named Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania). She was part of the first class at the school and even taught there as a professor.


More challenges arose, especially for her students when the Philadelphia Medical Society barred women from practicing in clinics. So, Dr. Preston started a hospital named the Woman’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The name later changed to the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, where Dr. Preston became dean. In this role, Dr. Preston fought for her female students to work alongside their male peers. She continued to fight for her students to have equal opportunities in studying medicine.


Learn more about Dr. Preston here.


Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD

Rebecca Lee Crumpler, MD was the first black woman awarded a medical degree from a U.S. college. She was born in Delaware in 1831 and grew up in Pennsylvania. In 1860, after working as a nurse, she applied to the New England Female Medical College and was accepted. She was the school’s only African American graduate. 


There is so much more to Dr. Crumpler’s story. For example, she wrote a book in 1883 called A Book of Medical Discourses in Two Parts. This book is available to purchase online. Learn more about Dr. Crumpler, the barriers she faced, and the achievements she made in the medical field here.


Mary Putnam Jacobi, MD

Mary Putnam Jacobi, MD is mainly known for her research that debunked menstruation myths. A Harvard professor published a book that argued it was dangerous for women to study. The author argued that women could not menstruate and think at the same time. Dr. Jacobi argued against this claim by researching and gathering data that proved women could do both without issue. She later won awards for her paper. 


Before she debunked the menstruation myths, Dr. Jacobi received her medical degree at Female Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1864. She went on to be the first woman admitted to l’École de Médecine in Paris, France. Learn more about Dr. Jacobi here.


Susan La Flesche Picotte, MD

In 1889, Susan La Flesche Picotte, MD was the first Native American woman to earn a medical degree in the U.S. She graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania as valedictorian.


Dr. Picotte was the daughter of an Omaha chief. After receiving her medical degree, she cared for the residents on the Omaha reservation in Nebraska. Dr. Picotte would make house calls and travel by foot to visit her patients. She also opened a hospital in 1913, before she died. Opening a hospital had been a dream of hers.


Dr. Picotte did many things for her community, including advocating for proper hygiene and screen doors to stop insects that may carry diseases from entering homes. Learn more about Dr. Picotte here.


Antonia Novello, MD

In 1990, Antonia Novello, MD became the first female U.S. surgeon general and the first Hispanic U.S. surgeon general. 


Her own congenital digestive condition inspired her to become a doctor. Dr. Novello’s family could barely afford her treatments. She wanted to become a doctor to make sure care is available to all. When she graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, she became a pediatrician but eventually moved into public health. Dr. Novello worked at the National Institutes of Health for decades before going to the White House. During her tenure as the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Novello continued fighting for health equality and focused on underage drinking and cigarette use.


Learn more about Dr. Novello here.