Amanda Taylor Norris, M.D.

(1849 - 1944)


As a lifelong resident of Maryland, Amanda Taylor Norris paved the way for women interested in the field of medicine by becoming the first woman physician in Maryland.

Along with her brothers and sisters, Amanda received her early education at home from a tutor. Earlier in her life her parents had sent her to reside with family members to give her an opportunity to attend a nearby school. This arrangement did not last as she was terribly homesick and returned home to her parents and siblings. At the age of seventeen she attended a girl's seminary in Carroll County for one year where her studies included grammar, arithmetic, history, composition, sciences, and German.

Amanda's lifestyle was leisurely and pleasant as expected for a well-to-do family at that time. In the spring of 1875 she attended the graduation of her brother, William, from a medical school in Baltimore. Upon her return trip home she read an article on the Woman's Medical College located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of a handful of medical schools for women. She was excited about the possibility of attending medical school, in part because of the moving commencement she had just attended for her brother. Once home she approached her father; who, although willing to provide the opportunity did not in fact believe Amanda would complete the schooling.

She graduated in 1880 from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania and returned to Baltimore where she began her career in private practice. Sadly, her father died in 1879, unable to see his daughter accomplish her goal.

The Maryland Medical College, a small co-educational school offered her a faculty position as a demonstrator of anatomy, which she readily accepted. The school was later closed due to the opening of the Johns Hopkins Medical School. In January 1882, a group of influential Baltimore women organized in the hope of establishing a women's medical school in Baltimore. It took only a
short time before a group of Baltimore physicians had become convinced of the need for such a school and lent their support. Amazingly by the fall of 1882, the Women's Medical College of Baltimore opened its doors to its first class of female students.

For two years Dr. Norris served on the faculty of the school as an assistant in the Throat and Chest Clinic, at which point she became a lecturer on the pharmaceutical aspects of medicine. She was appointed to a full professorship in that field in 1886 and was later appointed Professor of Practical Obstetrics.

As Dr. Norris' patient responsibilities increased it became more difficult for her to continue with her teaching, and so after eighteen years of practicing and teaching in Baltimore, she moved her office to Baltimore County to devote all of her time to her practice.

She was a member of the Medical Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland and in 1914 became a member of the Women's Medical Society, which was created in response to the increased numbers of women practicing medicine.

In 1929 the Women's Medical Society honored her nearly 50 years of service to her profession. One of the speakers at this ceremony, Dr. William Welch of Johns Hopkins, remarked that it was not necessary to make note of the fact that Dr. Norris was a woman, but more importantly that recognition be given to her accomplishments as a physician and professor; which alone had earned her the respect and admiration of her colleagues.

Dr. Norris married her cousin, a Harford County businessman, early in life and had one child. In 1939 she suffered a stroke which left her partially paralyzed and died in 1944 at 95 years of age.


© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2001