When Gil Pender, the protagonist of Woody Allen’s latest film, walks into the salon of Gertrude Stein, he can’t believe his good fortune (or time travel abilities). It’s a den of creative energy, literature and art. But years before Stein gathered the souls of the Lost Generation in her salon, she studied humanity from a different angle. Stein completed three-quarters of her education at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine before following her brother Leo to Europe.
Medicine might have seemed an odd career path for someone with a pronounced literary bent, but in the late 19th century, it was the most prestigious and demanding profession a woman of Stein’s intellect and curiosity could pursue. And Hopkins was the place for an ambitious female medical student. Started four years before by Baltimore philanthropist Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Hopkins already had garnered acclaim as the country’s first coeducational, graduate-level medical school.
Though Stein’s foray into medicine didn’t last, her interactions with other bright, ambitious women may have left a significant impact.
While at Hopkins, Stein became infatuated with a dynamic group of young women medical students—Baltimore activists and graduates of the Seven Sisters colleges. Like Stein, they too were trying to define their career ambitions within a Gilded Age society that valued marriage and domesticity for well-to-do young women.
Aside from Zelda Fitzgerald’s brief anachronistic encounter with 21st century pharma, there’s not much medicine in this film. Plenty of soul-searching though. Check out Midnight in Paris in a theater near you!
image via pacificrimshots.com