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Eva Francette Dodge (1896–1990)

Eva Francette Dodge was a pioneer physician, educator in obstetrics and gynecology, and advocate for maternal health care and sex education for young people in Arkansas and the United States. Her influence was felt worldwide through her work with the Pan American Medical Women’s Alliance (PAMWA) as an obstetrical consultant. Dodge was adamant in her belief that birth control was a right of women and that sex education was to be provided for all youth.

Eva Dodge was born on July 24, 1896, to George and Minnie Worthen Dodge in New Hampton, New Hampshire. Her father was a physician who greatly influenced her choice of medicine as a career. She was the eldest of three daughters.

Dodge graduated from high school at the New Hampshire Literary Institute at New Hampton in 1916. She earned her AB degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1919. She received her MD in 1925 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, her father’s alma mater. She served her internship from 1925 to 1926 at the University Hospital of Baltimore in Maryland, completing a residency in obstetrics in 1927. She was the first woman to serve in those positions there, and she faced discrimination both in training and throughout her career because of her gender.

Because of her love for travel, and the opportunity in the field of obstetrics, she accepted the position as acting head of the department of obstetrics at the Women’s Medical School in Shanghai, China, in 1927 but was forced to return home after a year because of meningitis. In 1930–31, she went to Vienna, Austria, to take a postgraduate course in obstetrics at the University of Vienna. After returning to the United States, she opened a private medical practice in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. From 1933 to 1937, she was also the chief of the maternity clinic and chief of obstetrics at City Memorial Hospital. She was a consultant to other hospitals, taught nurses, and served as an officer of the county medical society in 1937. In 1941, Dodge was on loan for eight months to the U. S. Children’s Bureau in Washington DC, serving as a consultant in obstetrics. During the years of 1937 to 1943, she also served as a consultant in obstetrical and maternal and child health in Alabama, Puerto Rico, and Mississippi.

These pioneering experiences in public health of providing maternity clinics and prenatal and postnatal care reinforced her belief that more emphasis should be placed on maternal care in medical schools. She was a pioneer for introducing better maternal care in public health clinic, and she introduced the practice of child spacing in the clinics where she worked. Continuing her interest in maternal health, from1943 to 1945, Dodge was Assistant Medical Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in New York; her work in public health clinics probably led to this interest.

In 1945, Dodge began her career at the University of Arkansas Medical School (now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences) in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She was named acting head of the department of obstetrics and gynecology from 1946 to 1947. In 1956, she delivered the first baby at the medical school location on Markham Street. She taught numerous residents in the department in her nineteen years there and applied many of her pioneering ideas: e.g., directing the participation of medical students in public health maternity clinics, at the University Hospital, and in state-sponsored maternity clinics. She was promoted to professor of obstetrics and gynecology in 1960 and was named the first woman professor emerita in 1964.

Dodge never married, but in 1956, she became a foster parent to Fernando Salazar while attending at a PAMWA meeting in Bolivia. With the blessings of his parents, she brought him to the United States and educated him. In 1962, he returned home to attend college.

Her retirement in 1964 did not end her career. She was director of the Detroit Maternal and Infant Project for that city from 1964 to 1966 and, afterwards, served in a number of consultant positions in Michigan and other places and traveled extensively, including a trip around the world. Returning to Arkansas in 1969, she became director of the East Arkansas Family Planning Project for the state department of health and filled a number of additional positions at the department before moving to Tarboro, North Carolina.

During her career, Dodge was the author of over fifty articles on maternal care for academic obstetrical and gynecological journals. She and a colleague, Margaret S. Hamilton, wrote her last article in 1981, when she was eighty-five years of age.

Dodge was affiliated with many professional organizations during her long career. She was a leader in the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), serving as president in 1938. In 1954–55, she was honored by, and assisted in founding, the Junior Branch of the AMWA at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, which bore her name for a number of years. In 1977, Dodge was presented the AMWA national organization’s highest honor, the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal. She was active and an officer of many professional obstetrical and gynecological organizations, among them the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American College of Surgeons. Dodge served as president of the PAMWA in 1962.

Dodge was selected as the Arkansas Democrat Woman of the Year in 1951. She was active in civic organizations in Little Rock (Pulaski County), assisting in the development of the Altrusa Club and actively participating in the American Association of University Women and the Business and Professional Women’s Club.

In the early 1980s, she moved to Tarboro, North Carolina, to live near her sister. She died there on March 29, 1990, and was buried there. Dodge’s legacy is her contribution to the education of over 1,200 Arkansas obstetric/gynecologic physicians and her contribution to the improvement of maternal health care of Arkansas women through public health clinics around the state.

For additional information:
“Citations of Eva F. Dodge, M.D., and Edith Petrie Brown, M.D., for the Elizabeth Blackwell Awards of the American Medical Women’s Association, December 1977.” Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association 33 (April 1978): 177.

“Dr. Eva F. Dodge, ‘51 Woman of Year.” Arkansas Democrat. April 7, 1990, p. 9.

Eva F. Dodge Collection. Historical Research Center. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Library, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Williams, Nancy, ed. Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Edwina Walls Mann
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 8/11/2011

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