History of a House
Florence E. Donnelly
110 East Fourth Avenue
Conshohocken’s First Female Doctor
By Jack Coll
It is National Women’s History Month and Conshohocken and West Conshohocken had and have had a lot of strong independent females in our history. I’ve written about our community’s history making females in the past and I thought in honor of National Women’s History Month I’d like to highlight one of our early residents named Florence E. Donnelly, M. D.
Florence Donnelly was born in Dublin Ireland, where her parents were visiting at that time, on June 16, 1872. Her father was Hugh I. Donnelly, a prosperous contractor and builder in Conshohocken died at the age of forty-nine, in 1885. Her mother was Cathrine (Murphy) Donnelly, who died at the age of sixty-three, in 1913. Her brother Michael F. Donnelly was the city solicitor of Philadelphia. Florence also had two sisters including Dorothy Connelly, M.D. who was a well-known physician in Philadelphia and a sister Helen, who was a widow once married to James F. Dixon.
Florence attended the Harry Street School and Conshohocken High School before attending the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia, from which she graduated in 1902 with the degree of M. D. Immediately after the completion of her professional training, she located her offices to 110 East Fourth Avenue.
Before long Florence had a large clientele and was considered the borough’s leading physician with her ability, personality and technical training of the highest order. Her reputation reached communities far beyond the Conshohocken boarders.
Florence’s place of business at 110 East Fourth Avenue was built just before the turn of the century, the Colonial Revival two story brick and stucco building served as Florence’s medical office for many years. She was on the auxiliary staff of the Montgomery County Hospital and her other professional associations included he Montgomery County, Pennsylvania State, and American Medical societies, and the Women’s Medical College Alumni.
Florence was known as a progressive doctor and not only was she the first female Doctor in Conshohocken, but the first female to own and become a licensed operator of an automobile in 1903.
In the United States, Women’s History Month traces its beginnings back to the first International Women’s Day in 1911. In 1978, the school district of Sonoma, California participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8 (International Women’s Day). In 1979 a fifteen day conference about women’s history was held at Sarah Lawrence College from July 13 until July 29, chaired by historian Gerda Lerner. It was co-sponsored by Sarah Lawrence College, the Women’s Action Alliance, and the Smithsonian Institution.
When its participants learned about the success of the Sonoma County’s Women’s History Week celebration, they decided to initiate similar celebrations within their own organizations, communities and school districts. They also agreed to support an effort to secure a National Women’s History Week.
In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed a bill which designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed additional resolutions requesting and authorizing the President to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1988, U.S. Presidents have issued annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.
Conshohocken has never lacked for women who are “Women History Month” worthy and I have written about many of these women in the past.
I’ve pointed out everyone in the sporting world who has had incredibility successful careers like Olympian Maddy Crippen, basketball standouts like Brenda Mason, Darlene Hildebrand, Tammy Greene and many others. I’ve pointed out many of our local females who were “First” in a particular field like Kelly Bolger, Anna Dare and Kim Lambdin who broke local barriers in the Little League organization and dozens of others.
Florence E. Donnelly, M.D. certainly earned the right to be honored during Women’s History Month for her contributions to Conshohocken.
For more articles on “History of a House,” or prominent Conshohocken females go to Conshystuff.com and click on articles by Jack Coll