Dr. Mary Amanda Dixon Jones
In 1888, Dr. Mary Dixon Jones performed a hysterectomy, removing a seventeen-pound tumor from her patient’s uterus. It was the first operation of its kind performed in America.
Mary Dixon began her career as an apprentice to two leading male physicians. In 1854, she married a lawyer, John Quincy Adams Jones. They moved west to Illinois and Wisconsin, and had three children.
In 1862, ten years after she had first begun studying medicine as an apprentice, Dixon Jones left to study at the Hygeio-Therapeutic Medical College in New York. After graduation, she moved to Brooklyn to start a private practice. Dr. Dixon Jones focused on obstetrical and gynecological surgery, a specialty that was developing rapidly at the time. She read about newly developed, innovative operations described in medical literature. She heard about new techniques taught in medical schools. But some of her patients had complicated and distressing gynecological problems that she was unsure how to treat. So, after ten years of successful private practice, she went back to school, enrolling at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.
She also studied with Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi, to discover more about the latest in pathology and clinical diagnosis. After her graduation in 1875, she returned to private practice. For nine years, she also worked at the Woman’s Hospital of Brooklyn. Dr. Dixon Jones’ surgical skills and her use of innovative procedures earned her an impressive reputation and a successful practice. In 1888, she described her precedent-setting hysterectomy surgery in The New York Medical Journal, noting that within fifteen days of the surgery, the patient was almost fully recovered.
In 1895, a Brooklyn newspaper slandered her surgical work. Dr. Dixon Jones sued for libel, but lost the case. As a result, her practice dwindled and she was forced to retire, so she turned to research.
She studied diseases of the reproductive system and investigated the connections between surgical specimens under the microscope and many of the diseases she had treated.
She was one of the few gynecological surgeons of her time to take up the laboratory study of specimens.