Forgotten Female Scientist: Bessie Moses

By: Danielle Lane  |  September 23, 2021

By Danielle Lane, Managing Editor

Dr. Bessie Moses was born in 1893 to a prominent German-Jewish family in Baltimore, Maryland.  After attending Goucher College and John Hopkins University for her undergraduate degree, she continued at Hopkins for medical school, a phenomenon for a woman at her time. Despite her parents’ disapproval, Moses nevertheless persevered until she graduated with an MD. She went on to become the first female obstetrician from Johns Hopkins.

In the late 19th century, the topics of birth control and reproductive rights were extremely controversial and rarely discussed by healthcare professionals. Margaret Sanger was one of the few individuals promoting safe reproductive health at this time and took the new Dr. Moses under her wing. Sanger was a major influence on the care that Dr. Moses would go on to provide for women all over the world.

In 1927, Dr. Moses opened the first women’s contraceptive clinic, Bureau for Contraceptive Advice, which would later become a part of Planned Parenthood, a women’s health clinic that still operates today. In giving her reasoning for opening the clinic Dr. Moses is quoted as saying, “the present industrial depression has as never before made people of all classes question the advisability of bringing yet more children into an already overcrowded world, a world with millions of families . . . with just enough food to keep them from starvation and not enough clothes to cover them decently.”

During her forty-year career, Dr. Moses successfully directed and spread Planned Parenthood clinics all over the country. She advocated for safe and effective abortions by training female gynecology students all over the country in order to affect as many people as possible. Dr. Moses died in 1965 after a battle with cancer and was posthumously inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 1991. 

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