Page 191 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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Yes, the world has changed many times over since I first saw the
Friedenwald volumes sitting on the shelf. Many, perhaps most, of
the patients who passed through that Chicago clinic have long
since passed away. Yet Harry Friedenwald’s research has been re­
suscitated and revitalized many times over, each time it appears at
the end of articles, neatly footnoted. Or, more correctly, it is the
other way around: it is Friedenwald’s scholarship that has nour­
ished and nurtured new generations of American-Jewish scholar­
ship, and gives perpetual succor to this easily-neglected subject.
How Friedenwald chose the topics for his essays, I do not know,
and cannot even venture to guess, except in a few circumstances.
His interests were eclectic, and united only by the same remarkable
facility at combining story-telling with fact-finding. An easy-to-
follow, conversational style, one that still conveys serious scholar­
ship, was as much his gift as his research itself.
Originally an ophthalmologist, Friedenwald wrote about “ocu­
lists” extensively, but hardly exclusively. His anecdotes about Jew­
ish women eye doctors have since become staples of discussion in
many different fields.
Another essay of Friedenwald’s concerns medieval female phy­
sicians, or doctoresses, as he called them.
Ironically, 1972 was just about the time that feminists were fran­
tically searching for historical data on women in such currently
“non-traditional” trades. In my medical sociology seminar, we as­
siduously studied Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s first female
physician. But who stopped to think that even older, and closer, ex­
amples could come fromJewish history, from Friedenwald’s facts?
How odd it is to look back at the books we didn’t read, a quarter
century later, and see that the heated discussions held in those days
of heady social change could have been helped by his History.
Similarly, his paper on medieval Montpelier’s medical school
would have been completely au courant. Friedenwald chronicles
Montpelier’s historic decision to admit Jews to its medical
school—when other European institutions refused to consider the
concept. At a time when (American) medical school discrimination
against women as well as racial minorities was just being chal­
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