Recently, at the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, I opened a textbook on The Principles and Practice of Nursing by Joseph S. Longshore, published in 1842. Longshore’s book preceded Florence Nightingale’s much more famous 1859 Notes on Nursing. Joseph Longshore is the brother of a woman about whom I’m writing a biography. To my delight the fly page of the book was inscribed ‘To Hattie, With the Compliments of the Author’. Suddenly, with his handwriting there before me, I felt in touch with this remarkable man in a very personal way. To touch a page an author has inscribed is a tactile experience that digital archives lack.
Joseph Longshore was the second of fifteen children (eleven of whom survived to adulthood) born to Rhoda Skelton and Abraham Longshore, Quakers of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He studied Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation in 1834 he returned to Bucks County to practice. His guide to nursing was written in order ‘to assist the inexperienced in performing various duties pertaining to the sickroom’. He recommended that a nurse ‘should exercise her judgment’ but avoid undue ‘meddling with the prescription of the physician’. He was aware, however, that some physicians would resent his book, seeing it ‘as an innovation calculated, in a pecuniary point of view, to detract from the value of the profession’. Such people, he warned, were ‘blinded by avarice’.
The book contains much useful information about care of patients and the appropriate demeanour for the sickroom. Sniffing or chewing snuff should be avoided, as should intoxicating liquors, opium or laudanum. To use ‘profane or vulgar language’ would be ‘extremely disagreeable’ and cleanliness and discretion were essential. Since nurses at the time were also expected to do housework and invalid cooking, the text usefully provided recipes like this one on p.89:
Infusion of Camomile and Orange Peel
Chamomile flowers, 1 ounce
Orange Peel, half an ounce
Cold water, 3 pints
Macerate for twenty-four hours, Let a tea-cupful be taken four times a day. The chamomile infusion is more agreeable to the taste when made cold, and less apt to spoil than when made of boiling water.”
Joseph Longshore was an independent thinker, a temperance advocate, and a believer in democratising medical knowledge. When building up his medical practice, he became increasingly concerned that contemporary standards of propriety meant that women preferred to suffer rather than discuss their gynecological ailments with male doctors. This concern was shared by Samuel Gregory, who in 1848 founded the New England Female Medical College in Boston to train midwives. In his 1850 Letter to Ladies in favor of Female Physicians for their Own Sex, Gregory wrote about the ‘great inconvenience and unnecessary suffering, mental and physical’ that resulted from confining medical knowledge to men ‘on account of the delicate relations which exist between the sexes’.
In order to remedy this situation Joseph Longshore joined others advocating for the idea of medical training for women, and in 1850 the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania opened its doors. Longshore was on the staff. His sister-in-law, Hannah Longshore, and sister, Anna M. Longshore, were members of the first class. Medical training then was relatively brief and there was no standard curriculum. Joseph had assisted his relatives to prepare for medicine by lending them books and skeletons to study. Like most of the male medical schools, the course of lectures initially provided by the College lasted for four months (students had to attend two courses). Students paid fees to each of the professors, and to qualify they had to be engaged in the study of medicine (under the guidance of a respectable practitioner) for a total of three years.
Joseph Longshore’s commitment to the education of women meant he was unconcerned with ruffling the feathers of his fellow physicians. In his introductory lecture to the first class at the Female Medical College in 1850, he noted how once the College became a reality, members of the profession hurled ‘their venom with unmeasured profusion’. He went on to write a weighty textbook on Obstetrics in which he noted his role in the founding of the Female Medical College as ‘A humble instrument of opening to women a new field of enterprise, and at the same time honestly endeavoring to fill a most important blank in the profession.’
 Samuel Gregory, Letter to Ladies in favor of Female Physicians for their Own Sex Female Medical Education Society, 2nd Boston 1854 (first written 1850), College of Physicians, Philadelphia.
 Joseph S. Longshore, MD, An Introductory Lecture delivered before the class at the opening of the Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, 12 Oct 1850. Philadelphia, James Young Printer, 1850, College of Physicians, Philadelphia.
 Joseph S. Longshore, The Philadelphia System of Obstetrics in Twelve Parts, fully Illustrated. Designed for a text-book for students, and as reference for the practitioner. Philadelphia, University Publications Society, 1868, p.5, College of Physicians, Philadelphia.
Barbara Brookes is co-editor of Corpus.