The following is taken from Women of Courage, Ten North Country Pioneers in Profile, written and produced by the St. Lawrence County, NY Branch of the American Association of University Women (1989).


Gladys Ward Dunn

Compassionate Doctor


Today a woman with ability and determination can choose a career in just about any field she wants. We have women lawyers, women stockbrokers, woman architects, and women doctors. However, this career choice was not always available because certain professions were considered unladylike or the obstacles too formidable to overcome. Just a few decades ago it was most unusual for women to succeed in establishing themselves in the medical profession as doctors or surgeons. Nursing was usually the only option open to women in that profession. But one woman who did bridge the gender gap in the field and not only became a medical doctor but a licensed surgeon and accredited psychiatrist as well, was a North Country resident named Gladys Ward.

Gladys Margaret Ward was born in Ogdensburg, NY in 1907, the second of five children to Edward F. and Mildred Hanratty Ward who ran a small grocery and baked goods store in that city. Gladys, after graduating from Ogdensburg Free Academy with honors in English, entered St. Lawrence University. Here her interest in science eventually predominated over her early writing and launched her on a career in medicine. After graduating from St. Lawrence she entered the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1929, earning her medical degree in 1934.

After becoming licensed in psychiatry, she accepted a position as staff physician at Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie and continued to take additional course work. In the early 1940s she joined the staff of the Westchester Division of New York Hospital, popularly known as Bloomingdale's, in White Plains. In 1941 she was listed in Women of Distinction of America.

Gladys Ward married Gilbert M. Dunn in 1945. They had two children, Sharon and Michael. In 1948 the family moved to Concord, New Hampshire, where she became the clinical director of the New Hampshire State Hospital, a position she held for 25 years.

These were exciting years for modern psychiatry, as new psychotropic medications were developed and new theories were introduced. Dr. Ward-Dunn was responsible for hospital admissions, for the development of a treatment program for alcoholics which relied heavily on Alcoholics Anonymous, for the establishment and supervision of out-patient clinics throughout New Hampshire, and for the development of treatment for children.

When hospital wards were being prepared to admit children and adolescents, Dr. Ward-Dunn insisted that the drab institutional look had to go. She ordered a new paint job and brightly colored drapes and bedspreads. She called the headmaster of the school next door to see if they had any talented students who might come to decorate the children's ward with murals. The youthful artist who brightened up the walls is now well known. Gary Trudeau is the creator of the Doonesbury cartoon strip.

During the 1950s, in addition to her many hospital duties, Gladys Ward Dunn also participated in her husband's business in nearby Penacock, NH. This was Duncraft, Inc. which still flourishes today as a mail order business for bird feeders. She was forced to retire from her position at the hospital in 1974 due to a serious heart condition. Her husband had died two years earlier. She died in 1980 in Concord, NH.


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