Olivia Campbell: Women in White Coats-How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine

Women in White Coats

Women in White Coats

WOMEN IN WHITE COATS:
HOW THE FIRST WOMEN DOCTORS
CHANGED THE WORLD OF MEDICINE

Olivia Campbell
HarperCollins / Park Row Books, March 2, 2021, $27.99
ISBN 10: 0778389391; ISBN 13: 978-0778389392

Campbell reports:

Women in White Coats is about three of the first women to earn medical degrees: unlikely friends who banded together to establish a women’s medical school in London. Sexist roadblocks met them at every turn. Still, they chose not only to pursue their goals, but also to ensure those who came after them could do the same. Their work proved pivotal in opening the medical profession to women and elevating the quality of women’s healthcare.

I got the idea after reading about two riots, one in Philadelphia and one in Edinburgh, where male medical students threw violent temper tantrums because women dared to join them in the classroom. I decided to dig further into accounts of the sexism Victorian women endured while attempting to enter the field of medicine.

    Olivia Campbell          Photo--C. Ian Campbell

Olivia Campbell (Credit: Ian Campbell)

I wrote the proposal with my agent’s help. She’d reached out to me after reading one of my essays and asked if I had any book ideas. The first submission round received universal feedback: great idea, narrow the focus. After a major overhaul, I sold it to Park Row Books, a HarperCollins imprint.

My editor expected to see a chunk of chapters every few months to ensure my story was on the right track. These extra deadlines helped me develop a rhythm of writing a chapter a month.

My book advance funded research trips to New York, London, and Edinburgh. I loved digging through archives and reading letters penned by the women I was writing about. These trips happened late in my writing process. By that point I knew what information I was missing, what I hadn’t been able to find in books, academic papers, or digitized archival documents.

My advice to aspiring authors is to be sure to find a topic you can dedicate several years of your life to without tiring of it. Don’t get bogged down in research; writing a book requires a lot of reading, but you can’t read everything that’s ever been written about your subject. Do keep meticulous notes about your source material and either hire a fact checker or set aside time to do it yourself.

Contact info:

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Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.

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Mar. 3, 2021

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines for information on submitting your report.

Publication of NASW author reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of any publication or the ideas, values, or material contained within or espoused by authors or their books. We hope this column stimulates productive discussions on important topics now and in the future as both science and societies progress. We welcome your discussion in the comments section below.

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