Women in Immunology

Articles from the AAI Newsletter

Winifred Ashby, Ph.D.Winifred Ashby, Ph.D. (1879–1975)

Excerpt: Winifred M. Ashby (AAI 1923) made her imprint on immunology while conducting research for her Ph.D. dissertation. This work led her to develop the first technique to determine red blood cell lifespan in humans. The Ashby technique (or Ashby method) was a major step in increasing the efficacy of blood transfusions and the management of chronic anemia.

Published: April 2020, from Hidden Figures of AAI: Five Women Pioneers in Immunology

Eleanor Bliss, Sc.D.Eleanor Bliss, Sc.D. (1899–1987)

Excerpt: The research that Eleanor A. Bliss (AAI 1931) performed with sulfanilamide drugs saved the lives of countless soldiers in World War II, as well as that of the U.S. president’s son. Her work with fellow Johns Hopkins University professor Perrin H. Long uncovered numerous uses for the sulfa compounds and launched antibacterials into the public consciousness..

Published: April 2020, from Hidden Figures of AAI: Five Women Pioneers in Immunology

Elise L'EsperanceElise Strang L’Esperance: Pioneer in Cancer Prevention

Excerpt: In 1916, Elise L’Esperance, M.D. (AAI 1920),  became the first woman to be a lead author on an article published in The Journal of Immunology.  This was not the last “first” to be credited to L’Esperance, for she was instrumental in breaking a number of barriers for women in medicine and changing the face of cancer prevention in the United States. For her ground-breaking work in cancer prevention, L’Esperance shared the 1951 Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award—becoming one of the first women to receive the award.

Published: January/February 2012

Mary Hewitt LovelessMary Hewitt Loveless: Creating a Buzz in Immunology

Excerpt: Of the many images one might conjure of immunologists in the 1950s, one of the least likely might be that of a middle-aged woman, butterfly net in hand, chasing wasps in her garden. Yet, this is precisely how one eminent immunologist, Mary Hewitt Loveless (AAI ’41), may have appeared on a typical summer day during that decade. An allergist and clinical immunologist, Loveless pioneered the use of venom, which she meticulously obtained from wasps and bees in her own backyard, to treat patients who were susceptible to anaphylaxis when stung by these insects of the order Hymenoptera.

Published: Winter 2013

Rebecca LancefieldRebecca Lancefield: PI in the Scotland Yard of Streptococcal Mysteries

Excerpt: Among early members of the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), few left a more enduring legacy than that of Rebecca Craighill Lancefield. A world-renowned authority on streptococcal bacteria, Lancefield developed the classification system of streptococcus bearing her name and still in use today. Recognized broadly for her outstanding scientific achievements, Lancefield, in 1961, was elected by her peers to serve as president of AAI, becoming the first woman elected to this office.

Published: March/April 2013

Jessie Marmorston, M.D.Jessie Marmorston, M.D. (1900–1980)

Excerpt: From an early age, Jessie Marmorston (AAI 1932) spoke her mind and excelled at practically everything she set out to do. She became not only an accomplished immunologist, but also the personal physician and confidante of Louis B. Mayer, the co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios.

Published: April 2020, from Hidden Figures of AAI: Five Women Pioneers in Immunology

Olga Povitzky, M.D.Olga Povitzky, M.D. (1877–1948)

Excerpt: Olga R. Povitzky (AAI 1920) had a 41-year research career with the New York City Department of Health—remarkable for a woman who came to Philadelphia from Lithuania as a 16-year-old girl on her own, speaking only Russian. In February 1918, she set sail for the war zone in France with a group of 30 other women that included nurses, a plumber, a carpenter, a chemist, drivers, and five other physicians.

Published: April 2020, from Hidden Figures of AAI: Five Women Pioneers in Immunology

Ellen Browning ScrippsEllen Browning Scripps and the Birth of Scripps Research

Excerpt: Biological science in San Diego owes a great debt to one woman. Ellen Browning Scripps was the embodiment of the American Dream and the new dynamism of women in the early 20th century. An immigrant, journalist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, she became one of the most important leaders in the creation and development of San Diego scientific and educational institutions.

Published: October 2019

Anna W WilliamsAnna Wessels Williams: Infectious Disease Pioneer and Public Health Advocate

Excerpt: Among early women members, Anna Wessels Williams, (AAI 1918) is one of a number who stand out for their enduring contribution to immunology and to the foundation of AAI. Her legacy in the burgeoning field of immunology includes breakthroughs in the treatment of diphtheria and the diagnosis of rabies. And texts that she co-authored helped to define how generations of researchers and clinicians would conduct research, as well as assist the general public in understanding infectious diseases.

Published: March/April 2012

Martha Wollstein, M.D.Martha Wollstein, M.D. (1868–1939)

Excerpt: Martha Wollstein (AAI 1918) was an accomplished physician, researcher, and the “first North American pediatric pathologist” when she became one of the first women elected to active AAI membership in 1918. During her career, Wollstein published more than 60 scientific papers and won numerous honors, including an appointment as head of the pediatric section of the New York Academy of Science (1928) and election to the American Pediatric Society (1930) as its first female member.

Published: April 2020, from Hidden Figures of AAI: Five Women Pioneers in Immunology

AAI CSOW HistoryCSOW: Focusing on the Careers of Women in Immunology

Excerpt: While women have been members of AAI since its founding (Amelia Gates and Myrtle Smith were charter members in 1913), they represented less than 10 percent of membership until 1958. There wasn’t an official group that focused on supporting women immunologists, and addressing career issues unique to them, in the association’s first 57 years. In 1970, the AAI Council approved the formation of a five-member Committee on Women’s Status. The first committee was chaired by Helene C. Rauch (AAI ’67), and included  Justine S. Garvey (AAI ’56) and G. Jeanette Thorbecke (AAI ’61, president 1989–90).

Published: March 2017

Hidden Figures of AAIHidden Figures of AAI: Five Women Pioneers in Immunology

Excerpt: We profile five women immunologists who in the early decades of the 20th century persevered in the fields of bacteriology, serology, public health, pediatric pathology, and drug development. They moved the science of immunology forward while simultaneously opening the field to future female immunologists. These pioneers are Martha Wollstein (AAI 1918), Olga R. Povitzky (AAI 1920), Winifred M. Ashby (AAI 1923), Eleanor A. Bliss (AAI 1931), and Jessie Marmorston (AAI 1932).

Published: April 2020

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