A pioneer in the field of women’s medicine, Dr. Anna Broomall’s contributions made an indelible mark on obstetrics and Delaware County history in a way few others could.
When the Upper Chichester native allegedly told her father, John Martin Broomall, she wanted to be a physician, he told her to make sure she excelled.
In 1869, while studying at the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia, Broomall was one of nine women to attend lectures at Pennsylvania Hospital for the first time. They arrived to hoots, cat calls and spit balls and were chased out by men who didn’t want women in their classes.
The women returned each week and eventually received apologies from some of the men who were unsavory in the beginning.
In 1871, she graduated and was appointed assistant physician at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia. A year later, she went to study in the hospitals of Paris and Vienna and returned in 1874.
Upon her return, she was appointed resident physician in the Women’s Hospital and by 1878 was physician-in-charge.
Dr. Broomall was noted for establishing one of the first clinics for maternal care in the country in South Philadelphia, as well as for her 1892 mock trials of an infanticide case when she was a professor of obstetrics at Drexel University.
She was also known for advocating for episiotomies and Caesarian sections, which led to a decrease in mortality and serious injuries. A trailblazer, Broomall also emphasized and prioritized the care of the mother, which was a change from her time’s prevalent focus in care.
After retiring in 1903, Dr. Broomall volunteered as a librarian and curator at the Delaware County Historical Society, where she donated her collection of scrapbooks that included letters, film negatives and items of personal interest to her from 1900 through 1922. The collection also includes glass slides of different exposures.
Dr. Broomall never married.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is dedicating an historical marker in her honor at noon on Tuesday, March 26, at Widener University at East 13th and Chestnut streets in Chester. The event is open to the public, and those interested can RSVP here.
The Dr. Anna Broomall collection is housed at the home of Delaware County Historical society, located at 408 Avenue of the States in Chester. It is open to the public Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the second Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments are also available upon request. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot.
For more information or for ways to get involved, call 610-359-0832.