Edyth (Hull) Schoenrich was born during a tumultuous time, on September 9, 1919. Nations were recovering from the end of WWI and the loss of so many of its young men, either from war or Spanish Flu. After decades of lobbying, women’s right to vote was gaining momentum and would be granted on a national level by a Constitutional Amendment. Throughout her life, she would be witness to major changes in our country, from the Great Depression to the Civil Rights Movement. At times, she may have even been an unknowing participant in creating that change.
As a young girl, Edyth was studious, curious, and adventurous, no doubt a troubling combination for a young girl of that time. But she was encouraged by her parents and teachers to pursue her education, one that would leave a trail for others to follow.
During the height of the Great Depression, Edyth would attend Duke University, from 1937-1941, earning her Bachelor of Arts. She then went on to University of Chicago to earn a masters degree in Psychology. There, she would meet her husband and begin a family. Once again, she would shatter the mold and enter medical school, a highly unusual career choice at the time for a woman who was a young wife and mother. She was one of three women in a class of 75. Not without its struggles, she took it in stride, according to her anecdotes, using it as an opportunity to shine and stand out from the rest. With her M.D., the Schoenrich family moved to Maryland where Dr. Edyth would work at Johns Hopkins Hospital and begin her legacy at the institution.
Johns Hopkins Hospital and Medical School were no strangers to the battleground of equal rights or the reformation of medical education. The university was founded as a place to “to develop character and to make men,” according to University President Daniel Coit Gilman. Soon thereafter, in 1890, 15 chapters of the Women’s Medical School Fund across the nation would raise nearly half a million dollars for the school to become coeducational and admit women and men on the same terms, as well as requiring Bachelor degrees and education in science and language. Dr. Edyth would continue to change the course of history at the University through pursuing her dreams and ambitions.
Dr. Edyth worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital as an intern from 1948-1949. Continuing to excel, she became assistant resident in medicine 1949-1950 and then fellow from 1950-1951. In 1951, she was appointed chief resident in medicine, only the second woman to hold that position. Despite her skill and competence, Dr. Edyth still faced predjudice and bigotry, passed up for promotion simply for being a woman. Anger overcoming hurt, Dr. Edyth used that energy to find a positive outcome for the obstacles she faced and continued to forge ahead.