• Isaac Simon

Birthday of Sarah Vasen, 1870

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

On This Day in Jewish History: May 21st, 1870




Today is the birthday of Sarah Vasen: the first female physician of Jewish descent in the US, Sarah specialized in gynecology and obstetrics.


Vasen studied at Keokuk College of Medicine in 1890, the first co-ed medical school that focused on gynecology and obstetrics practices in the US. Vasen graduated on March 8, 1892 and became the school’s first Jewish female to do so in its history. .

Always passionate about her Jewish identity, in 1897 Vasen conducted her post graduate work in obstetrics in Philadelphia. While in training, she became the physician and eventually, the superintendent at the Jewish Maternity House. .

Vasen would eventually accept a position as both physician and superindentent at Philadelphia’s Jewish Maternity Home, a place for Jewish immigrants too poor to afford treatment anywhere else.


Vasen moved to California in 1904, becoming the second Jewish female to practice medicine in the state. She continued her work as an OBGYN/medical supervisor until 1910 when she started a private maternity clinic. She would divide her time between the clinic and her volunteer work with California’s poor Jewish community. She retired from medicine in 1915 but continued to be a vibrant presence in Los Angeles’s Jewish community until she passed away in 1944. .




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