“When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” – Barack Obama
Every June, the LGBTQIA+ community comes together to celebrate Pride Month, commemorating the Stonewall Uprising, the pursuit of equal rights, and recognition of LGBTQIA+ accomplishments and contributions to our country.
The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969, is considered the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. Hundreds of patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, staged an uprising against police harassment and persecution based on discriminatory laws and practices. The uprising lasted several days and became a symbol of resistance to social and political discrimination. However, the fight for equality and LGBTQIA+ contributions to society and medicine started long before Stonewall. Here are just a few healthcare professionals who have had a lasting impact on medicine and society.
Bertha Wright (June 17, 1876 – May 6, 1971)
Nurse Bertha Wright’s list of professional and personal achievements runs long. She founded the first nursing school in Alameda County, established the Berkeley Day Nursery, the first public child daycare center in California, and helped found the Baby Hospital in Oakland, later known as the Children’s Hospital Oakland, the city’s first children’s hospital. Wright volunteered with the Charitable Organization Society and met social worker Mabel Weed. The women moved in together and adopted and raised several children.
Alan Hart (October 4, 1890 – July 1, 1962)
An American physician, radiologist, and tuberculosis researcher Alan Hart was a trailblazer in using X-Ray technology to detect tuberculosis. Hart helped develop a TB screening program and helped save thousands of lives when the disease was the largest killer in the U.S. Born Alberta Lucille Hart, Hart graduated from the University of Oregon Medical School and was the first woman to receive the Saylor medal for being the top student in all departments. After graduating, Hart became one of the first trans men to undergo hysterectomy and gonadectomy in the U.S.
Dr. John Fryer (November 7, 1937 – February 21, 2003)
American psychiatrist and gay rights activist Dr. John Ercel Fryer made history with his anonymous speech at the 1972 American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual conference in which he told the audience, “I am a homosexual… I am a psychiatrist.” A year after Fryer’s speech, the A.P.A reversed its century-old position and declared homosexuality was not a mental disorder.
Bruce Voeller, Ph.D. (May 12, 1934 – February 13, 1994)
Biologist, AIDS researcher, and activist Dr. Bruce Voeller introduced nonoxynol-9 as a spermicide and topical virus-transmission preventative. Voeller won a five-year fellowship at the Rockefeller Institute and was a specialist in human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases.
Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer, Ph.D., RN (March 24, 1942)
Grethe immigrated to the U.S. from Norway, joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1961 as a student, and volunteered for service in Vietnam. Grethe was forced to leave the Army when she became pregnant with her first son, as pregnancy or having young children while serving active duty was a violation for women. Grethe would join the Army Reserves but later be dishonorably discharged when she disclosed she was a lesbian during a security clearance interview. Grethe challenged the ruling and was reinstated. Her story was depicted in the film “Serving in Silence.”
Dr. Sara Josephine Baker (November 15, 1873 – February 22, 1945)
Inspired by the sudden death of her father when she was just 16, Dr. Sara Josephine Baker became the first woman to earn a doctorate in public health from New York University and Bellevue Hospital Medical College. She would make significant contributions to public health, particularly within immigrant communities. She helped organize and became the first director of the New York City Bureau of Child Hygiene. Additionally, she is known for tracking down Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary) twice. Baker was in a long-term relationship with screenwriter Ida Wylie.
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