Homeopathy, as a medical system, presented a significant institutional and economic challenge to conventional medicine in the nineteenth century. Although contemporary critics portrayed homeopathic physicians as part of a sect whose treatment of disease was beyond the pale of acceptable medical practice, homeopathy was in many ways similar to established medicine. Anne Taylor Kirschmann explores the strategic choices and consequences for women practitioners. Not only were female homeopaths respected within their communities, they also enjoyed considerable professional advantages not available to women within regular medicine.
A Vital Force: Women in American Homeopathy offers a new interpretation of women’s roles in modern medicine. Kirschmann strengthens and clarifies the history of homeopathic women physicians and creates a framework of comparison to “regular,” or orthodox, physicians. Women medical practitioners chose homeopathy in dramatic numbers from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, although the reasons for this preference varied over time. Linked to social reform movements in the nineteenth century, anti-modernism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth, and countercultural ideals of the 1960s and 1970s, women's advocacy of homeopathy has been intertwined with broad social and cultural issues in American society.