Eliza Mosher

Eliza Mosher was born in 1846 in Cayuga County, New York. As a young girl, Mosher listened to lectures on physiology and hygiene, which sparked her deep interest in medicine and healing. At a time when the practice of medicine was a difficult profession for women to enter, Mosher disregarded the objections of her friends and family. In 1869, she went to Boston to study under Dr. Lucy E. Sewall of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, which acted as the roots for several other notable female University of Michigan alumnae.[1] Two years later, in 1871, she, along with her friends Amanda Sanford, Anna Searing, Emma Call and Elizabeth Gerow, received a letter saying she had been accepted to the university’s medical department. Her second year there, she accepted a position to explore her fascination with the human body and act as an assistant to the demonstrator of anatomy.

In 1875, she received her MD and returned to New York to open a practice in Poughkeepsie. However, she quickly became occupied elsewhere with the establishment of the Massachusetts Reformatory Prison for Women in Sherborn, the first prison in the world to be conducted for women. After her journey abroad to Europe with Dr. Amanda Sanford in 1879 to observe new medicinal methods that she would later utilize as a professor, she dived into work for the prison. She accepted a position appointed by the governor to become the superintendent of medicine and the director of the entire reformatory. For three years, from 1881 until 1883, she immersed herself in the reorganization of the prison. An article in a New York newspaper praised her efforts, remarking fondly that “her ability as a general practitioner was so great that she acquired a remarkable reputation which spread far beyond the field of her immediate daily work.”[2]

In 1886, she left her position at the prison to join a large practice in Brooklyn. She enjoyed ten years of work there until the University of Michigan called on her as Dean of Women and Professor of Hygiene. Her colleagues in Brooklyn were likely sad to see her go but wished her well on her journey back to Michigan with the following farewell message: “It will be seen that Dr. Mosher is admirably fitted for the important work that she will take up in University of Michigan, and there can be no question that she will be successful in it. On her departure from Brooklyn, she will take with her the good wishes of the many warm friends she has made there.” Upon her realignment with the University, she also worked as a general physician and a fundraiser for the following new projects: the Women’s League and Women’s Gymnasium. Mosher was the first ever woman professor at University of Michigan. As Dean of Women, she acted as a liaison to the 600 women at the university–an important role, as they were severely outnumbered by men. At the time, a student commented that “her presence inspires confidence, and she has in large measure the motherly instinct that makes women feel that they can trust her implicitly.” Meanwhile, Mosher maintained memberships in the King’s County Medical Society, the Brooklyn Women’s Club, the Electro-Therapeutic Association, Brooklyn Red Cross Nursing and Instruction Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Physical Education.

Eliza Mosher’s wide-ranging medical career exhibits exemplary dedication and a passion for knowledge. Mosher-Jordan Hall was established in 1930 in honor of Eliza and Myra B. Jordan. To this day, the residence hall encourages women to pursue medical, engineering and science fields as the home of the Women in STEM living community. Eliza Mosher will forever serve as role model to the women of Mosher-Jordan Hall, who follow in her footsteps with the dedication of this residence hall.

  1. Untitled newspaper clipping, 1920, Florence W. Hazzard papers.
  2. “Dr. Mosher’s Departure,” clipping from untitled newspaper, 1846, Eliza Mosher Papers.
Image Credit:

“Eliza Mosher on phone at desk 1925,” Eliza Maria Mosher Papers.