Happy March everyone! March is Women’s History month so we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the vital role that women played in the development, growth, and evolution of physical therapy. Currently, nearly 70% of rehabilitation professionals are women, including 100% of our staff at Girl Fit! This post focuses on one of the most important Women in Physical Therapy, Mary McMillan.
Mary McMillan is identified as the “mother of physical therapy” and she was born right here in Boston in 1880. After several family tragedies, Mary went to England to live with her Aunt. During this time, Mary developed her love and passion for the human body and what was known as “gymnastics”: the science of how movement affected the body and its health”. Mary developed an expertise in therapeutic massage and was formally trained as a nurse.
Mary returned to the United States in 1917. At this time, the Polio epidemic was rampant and Mary was able to use her skills to rehabilitate children with polio at Boston Children’s Hospital using gentle exercise and massage.
Later, in 1918, Mary became the first “Reconstruction Aide” in the US Army. This was the first formal term describing physical therapists, which made Mary the first Physical Therapist in the United States. Mary helped to train other women in physical therapy to rehabilitate soldiers through therapeutic massage and exercise. She also believed that mental attitude played a crucial role in a patient’s physical health and healing, and she was frequently spreading optimism and encouragement to her patients. After significant effort, Mary eventually persuaded medical doctors that physical therapy was an essential part of medical care.
Mary created the American Women’s Physical Therapeutics Association (AWPT) which today is known as the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The APTA aims to “build a community that advances the profession of physical therapy to improve the health of society”. Therefore, the APTA is frequently at the forefront of sharing new research in the field of physical therapy which we implement daily at Girl Fit.
Ultimately, Mary’s initial vision and persistence in promoting physical therapy has contributed to the success of physical therapy today. Now, physical therapy is a widely accepted and successful component of medical care that benefits a wide variety of individuals.
If you think you would benefit from physical therapy, please call us at 617-618-9290 or send us an email at email@example.com.
Lindsey Sumpman PT, DPT