Other amazing women: Nellie Bly, Lydia Pinkham, Dr. Marie Stopes
See Cardui patent medicine, Lydia Pinkham's Compound, Dr. Pierce's medicine and Orange Blossum medicine.
CONTRIBUTE to Humor, Words and expressions about menstruation and Would you stop menstruating if you could?
Some MUM site links:

MUM address & What does MUM mean? |
Email the museum |
Privacy on this site |
Who runs this museum?? |
Amazing women! |
Art of menstruation |
Artists (non-menstrual) |
Asbestos |
Belts |
Bidets |
Bly, Nellie |
MUM board |
Books: menstruation and menopause (and reviews) |
Cats |
Company booklets for girls (mostly) directory |
Contraception and religion |
Costumes |
Menstrual cups |
Cup usage |
Dispensers |
Douches, pain, sprays |
Essay directory |
Extraction |
Facts-of-life booklets for girls |
Famous women in menstrual hygiene ads |
Founder/director biography |
Gynecological topics by Dr. Soucasaux |
Humor |
Huts |
Links |
Masturbation |
Media coverage of MUM |
Menarche booklets for girls and parents |
Miscellaneous |
Museum future |
Norwegian menstruation exhibit |
Odor |
Olor |
Pad directory |
Patent medicine |
Poetry directory |
Products, some current |
Puberty booklets for girls and parents|
Religion |
Religión y menstruación |
Your remedies for menstrual discomfort |
Menstrual products safety |
Seguridad de productos para la menstruación |
Science |
Shame |
Slapping, menstrual |
Sponges |
Synchrony |
Tampon directory |
Early tampons |
Teen ads directory |
Tour of the former museum (video) |
Underpants & panties directory |
Videos, films directory |
Words and expressions about menstruation |
Would you stop menstruating if you could? |
What did women do about menstruation in the past? |
Washable pads |
Read 10 years (1996-2006) of articles and Letters to Your MUM on this site.
Leer la versión en español de los siguientes temas: Anticoncepción y religión, Breve reseña - Olor - Religión y menstruación - Seguridad de productos para la menstruación.


A pioneering woman physician and a mail-order business for women's diseases and menstruation:
Dr. Grace Feder Thompson
,"A bit of a hellion"
Her life from materials belonging to Jerrie Wacholder
(the daughter of Dr. Thompson's third husband)

Grace Feder - later, Dr. Grace Feder Thompson - was the second of six children, born in 1875 to a wealthy San Francisco Jewish family that owned a large ranch in Fresno and manufactured shoes in the city. The San Francisco fire of 1906 destroyed their city home, and it was six months before the safe cooled enough enough to open it. But the money inside was ashes. The family lived in a tent in Golden Gate Park until they regained their footing.

As a child, Grace was mischievous, wildly riding side saddle the family's ponies, and pulling pranks with her siblings, for which they received the cold shoulder from their beloved father and spankings from their mother. Dr. Thompson's only child, Jerrie, pegged her as "a bit of a hellion," which may have propelled her to early success.

Grace and her sister Adeline graduated in 1895 from an approximately two-year course for the M.D. at the University of California, although Grace wasn't old enough to receive the degree; the school sent it to her in Germany when she turned 21, where she was with the older Adeline and the younger Cora, the family beauty, a talented violinist studying at the Berlin Conservatory of Music.

Both Cora and Adeline met and married Americans in Europe, Adeline marrying the dentist to the Kaiser and Cora a printing-press manufacturer selling the Kaiser the Mergenthaler Linotype machine. Cora died at 24 after childbirth. As was the custom, Mona, a sister, then married the widower to care for the children. Adeline and her husband remained in Germany until after World War I, when they settled in California with their three children.

In Europe for about two years, Grace studied widely, as recounted below in her notes written for the University of California. She was the first woman accepted into the medical school of the University of Berlin. Later, she interned at Moorsfield Hospital in London, which afterwards offered her a job as head nurse - women had little standing in medicine then. The angry Dr. Feder returned home soon after.

But the situation was no better in San Francisco, where her father believed that work was undignified for women and wouldn't let her practice, in spite of her training in eye, ear, nose and throat. And she was the only woman qualified to write a prescription for eye glasses in San Francisco. Later, officials rejected her idea for an eye clinic for university students.

Dr. Thompson, now married to Mr. Woods, the handsome owner of many glove stores who formerly toured the world managing circus acts, did clinical work at the University of California for 15 years before retiring. This marriage, her third, lasted 49 years, until her husband died at 89.

But where is the Woman's Remedy Company, which is why she is on this site?

Her daughter, and only child, Jerrie Wacholder, e-mailed me in August 2000 after someone told her he found the material on this site. Mrs. Wacholder was writing a genealogy for the family. She had had no idea that her mother had been involved with the company or written a book - although her mother had often mentioned the Woman's Remedy at home without further defining it - and wanted to know where I got the letter.

I have a suggestion as to what happened.

Grace's father, Samuel, died in 1901, when she was about 26, possibly loosening the restraint on her entrepreneurial urges. Sometime between then and 1912, when the envelope on this site is dated, she joined - started? - the company, possibly with her husband (Mr. Thompson, about whom Mrs. Wacholder provided no information), which looks as if it could be done at home, not in a public office, thereby still concealing her work from the world - or family.

But her whereabouts and family situation would have to be determined to settle the question. Mrs. Wacholder, born to another husband six or so years after the date of the letter, when her mother was 43, could not have heard family talk about her mother's ongoing enterprise. By that time the business had probably long since disappeared.

I sense that by her last marriage, she had resigned herself to what was apparently routine work at the university, surely a disappointment for an intelligent and ambitious woman. Why would a father support two daughters' medical education and then not let them practice? By this time she had had a lifetime's worth of experience, and perhaps realized that.

Obviously there are gaps and puzzles in the biography on this page, as you will see if you carefully compare documents with narrative. Mrs. Wacholder, in an understatement, writes that Dr. Thompson was "quite a dynamic lady."


I think I detect an impish grin.
Below is the text of a note, maybe a draft, (with an excerpt in her handwriting) Dr. Thompson wrote to a Dr. Davis of the University of California, probably late in life, recounting briefly her life. The "we" includes her sister, Adeline Feder, M.D.
Jerrie Wacholder, the daughter of Dr. Thompson by her third husband, and only child, sent the text (under the handwritten excerpt, below), which she edited for clarity, and a copy of part of the actual note.
It was common in German-speaking countries, and still is to an extent, for students to spend semesters at different universities studying under good people in their field; this explains Dr. Thompson's travels.

"I graduated from the University of California in medicine in 1895 with my sister Adeline Feder. We then went to Germany to do further studies. At that time I was the first woman to enter the medical college in Berlin. We studied under Professor Loeb in Nürnberg in bacteriology.
"In Zürich we studied general medicine under Professors Eichhorst and Müller.
"In Berlin we studied brain under Prof. Monakau and Forel in his clinic in Bucholse. My studies continued alone as my sister gave up medicine to marry Dr. Henry Phillips, dentist to the Kaiser [! This seems to contradict some information below, but may resolve itself with more information].
"I was the only woman at the University of Berlin studying eye under Professor Schweiger.
"From there I continued my studies at Moorfields Hospital in London (1897) associated with another doctor in charge of the infant clinic. I also studied refraction under Dr. Thompson, the inventor of the ophthalmoscope.
"I returned home in the fall of 1898 and consulted with my cousin Dr. Monroe Deutsch, who was at that time provost of the University of California. I was greatly interested in the possibility of opening a free clinic to fit and dispense glasses to students. However, interest had not progressed to a point where eye deficiencies were recognized in students and my suggestion was not accepted.
"I still maintain my license and subscription to medical publications.
"Sincerely, Grace Feder (Thompson) Woods"
Below are excerpts from Public Opinion (probably a newspaper), San Francisco,
reproduced from Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly (no date),
courtesy of Jerrie Wacholder.


Below: Obituary for Dr. Thompson (in the San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 1966)
Private family services for Dr. Grace Feder Woods - who may well have been San Francisco's first woman physician - were held at Sinai memorial chapel here Sunday.
They were charged with love - performed by her cherished son-in-law, attorney and former rabbi, David Rubenstein.
Dr. Woods, who celebrated her 90th birthday with her family last August - gay of heart and crystal-clear in mind, suffered tiny strokes and gave up her apartment three months ago to enter a convalescent home. She died there Saturday.
Her father, a pioneer shoe manufacturer and partner in the Rosenthal-Feder Shoe Co., had his store where Shreve's now is; her New Orleans-born mother came west by covered wagon.
Graduated from the University of California in 1894, Dr. Woods refused to accept the almost universal barrier against women in medical colleges.
With her sister Adeline Feder Phillips, she entered medical school in Berlin, Germany, in the first class to admit women, had her residency in Moorfields Hospital, London, and began practice here about 1898 as an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist.
She was married in 1915 to Harry Woods, glove manufacturer, who died three years ago, but whose H. Woods Glove Co. still is a business here.
Dr. Woods followed the college careers of her grandsons, Michael and Donald, with pride, and enjoyed visits with them and her daughter only last week.

END - Go to the amazing Nellie Bly - Go to Dr. Thompson's first page and letter, exam sheet (front), (back), envelopes
Some other amazing women: Marie Stopes, Nellie Bly, Lydia Pinkham See Cardui patent medicine,
Lydia Pinkham's Compound, Dr. Pierce's medicine and Orange Blossum medicine.

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