Eliza Mosher


Eliza Mosher in 1925, after her retirement

Eliza Mosher came to the University of Michigan to study medicine in 1871, just one year after the University opened its doors to women. Mosher found herself facing opposition for being a woman student. Many of the early medical classes segregated men and women, though occasionally they were taught in the same setting. She remembered the jeering and catcalls she and the other women students received filing into a room to watch a medical demonstration and said that it was difficult to bear, even for the most thick-skinned women.

Despite this, Mosher found great success as a medical student. Mosher recalled how the Dean of the Medical School, Professor Palmer--who was openly opposed to women students--came to recognize and praise her skills. He saw her “demonstrate a specimen” to the class of women doctors and thought she did it so well that he had her demonstrate to the men’s class as well.1


A medical classroom from the 1880s with women on one side and men on the other

Eliza Mosher letters.jpg

Eliza Mosher wrote many letters home while she was at school

Life at the University of Michigan certainly was different than what students face today, but in a letter written home in 1872, Mosher showed that some things remained the same as she complained of living off of borrowed money and gaining weight while at school.2

Mosher kept busy after graduating from Michigan. She worked as a doctor for a while in Poughkeepsie, as a physician then matron at the Sherborn Reformatory Prison for Massachusetts women, as a professor at Wellesley College, and then owned a private practice in Brooklyn while also being the resident physician at Vassar College.3 This was until President Angell, who had known Mosher as a student, asked that she become the University’s first Dean of Women. Mosher agreed on the condition that she also was given the opportunity to teach. In 1896 she took over her duties as the Dean of Women and a Professor of Hygiene in the college of Literature, Science and the Arts.

She left the position in 1902 but continued to work. She returned to her practice in Brooklyn and published a book called Health and Happiness: A Message to Girls. Mosher died in New York in 1928.

1. Eliza Mosher, "Alumnae Survey," Questionaire of U-M Alumnae Council, Eliza Marie Mosher Collection, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 

2. Eliza Mosher to Home Folks, February 14, 1872, Correspondence 1872-1875, Eliza Marie Mosher Collection, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 

3. Florence Hazzard, "Eliza Mosher- Dean of Women," Michigan Alumni: The Quarterly Review, Autumn 1945, 358.