Female veterinarians now outnumber male counterparts

by Kira Everhart

Special to the Free Press

It began as a man?s profession. But now, so it seems, women are taking over.

According to information from Kansas State University, the first veterinary medicine graduation was in 1907 with seven graduates ? all male.

Almost a century later, the number of graduates at KSU has grown to 107 and women outnumbered men almost two to one.

?For many years admissions committees discriminated against female applicants,? said Ronnie Elmore, associate dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

?Fortunately, this is no longer true. Part of the reason for increased numbers of women in the program relates to their knowing that they are welcome,? she said.

?Along with this, we now have an adequate number of female role models in the profession for young women to emulate.?

The legacy, according to research, showed that in 1932, Helen Richt, a native of Omaha was KSU?s first woman graduate. But Richt would be the only graduate until two years later. It would then be another 10 years before more women graduated.

Tracking statistics nationwide, only 30 female veterinarians were working in the U.S. with two of those from KSU. Female graduation in veterinary medicine remained sporadic until the mid-1960s, a KSU spokesperson said.

By the late 1970s, though women made up 14 percent of the college’s graduating veterinarians.

?The early graduates were all very courageous and gutsy women,? said Lesley Gentry, author of ?The Lady is a Veterinarian,? which was an account of the pioneer women who graduated from the school of veterinary medicine at K-State.

?From a very early age they made up their minds they were going to take care of animals,? she said. ?They were very determined.?

Gentry said she attributes the increased enrollment and interest to a variety of factors including the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which guaranteed equal opportunity in training and in salary.

The Women’s Educational Act of 1974, also prevented sex discrimination in the school system, playing a role in number of women veterinarians, she said.

But Gentry said she also believes the success of writer James Herriot and his books to include ?All Creatures Great and Small,? played a vital role in that increased enrollment.

Herriot, she said, wrote and published tales based on his life as a veterinarian.

?The way he depicted the life of a veterinarian really attracted women and encouraged them to go seek out what it takes to be vet,? Gentry said.

Since its first commencement in 1907, more than 1,100 women graduated from Manhattan into the profession of veterinary medicine.

According to Gentry, women also went into a variety of areas within the profession, including private practice as well as governmental and food industry positions.

?I believe veterinary medicine offers a lifestyle women will continue to pursue,? she said.

?I really think it’s an area where women are going to be accepted and be able to work at their own pace.?