Women’s History Month 2021
“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us.” —Ellen White
Dr. Lauretta Kress was the first female physician in Montgomery County and the first female surgeon registered in the state of Maryland. Her husband, Dr. Daniel Kress, was the first medical superintendent of the Washington Sanitarium. In 1916, Lauretta Kress opened a maternity ward at the “San” known as the Kress Maternity and Children’s Hospital. Under her direction, the “hospital within the hospital” exclusively treated expectant mothers and children. In a career at Washington Sanitarium that spanned more than two decades, Lauretta Kress delivered more than 5,000 babies.
The legacy created by Lauretta and Daniel Kress is much appreciated in Adventist HealthCare, and they personified in their life and work the mission and values of our organization. Being reminded of this history, even briefly, helps demonstrate the value of the designation of March as Women’s History Month.
Too often the history books have glossed over or virtually ignored the history and contributions made by women across every aspect of life. Women’s History Month seeks to correct this, and it is a welcome opportunity to affirm the fundamental role of women as leaders and influencers.
Women represent more than 70% of the healthcare workforce in the United States. The history of healthcare—as illustrated by narratives like the story of Lauretta Kress—cannot be written without recognition of the foundational role of women in our work.
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman in the United States to receive a medical degree in 1849—graduating at the top of her class. Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first Black female physician in the U.S. in 1864. Today there are more than 350,000 female physicians in the United States.
In 2020, for the first time, the majority of U.S. medical students were women. Despite gender bias and prejudice, women have persisted. Women are significantly engaged in creating the future as leaders, and their influence should—and will—continue to grow.
Myra Sadker, educator and activist, wrote, “Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns that she is worth less.” I don’t want that to happen to my daughters or nieces or to the young people whom I’ve had the opportunity to watch grow up and become adults. I don’t want any girl or young woman to have that experience.
Please join me in the celebration of Women’s History Month—in healthcare and throughout our society. May we be more mindful of the opportunities to support and expand our understanding of the difference women make in our mission to the communities we serve.