Women Come to WUSM

The 19th amendment to the constitution gave women the right to vote. Suffragists had cause to rejoice when it passed both houses of Congress in May and June 1919. Carol Skinner Cole (1888-1932) and Aphrodite Maria Jannopoulo (1896-1976) must have been on top of the world. They were the first women admitted as medical students at Washington University School of Medicine. Both matriculated in September 1918. The admissions committee admitted Cole as a regular medical student, but the dean admitted Jannopoulo as a special student until her second year, 1919-1920. They went through medical school together in the medical class of 1922 along with Jannopoulo’s future husband, Armin S. Hofsommer.

Jannopoulo graduated from Webster High School and earned a bachelor of arts in 1918 at Washington University. She played the cornet in the college band and was a soprano in the college choir as an undergraduate. R. J. Glaser, her son-in-law, related what happened when she applied to Washington University School of Medicine in his letter to Marion Hunt in 1991:

When Aphrodite Jannopoulo applied to medical school in 1918, she was interviewed by the then dean, George Canby Robinson, a distinguished figure in American medical education of that period, who told her he thought she could be admitted if she took a course in physics, which she had not had while in college. He told her, however, that she would not receive her degree with her class (1922) because she would not have completed physics at the time she started her medical studies, and therefore would have to wait another year for her degree. Further, she was advised that she herself would have to arrange with the Department of Physics on the Hill for admission to a physics course. As indicated in her diary, it was not easy; in today’s parlance she got the “run around”, but ultimately Professor Langsdorf, who was a prominent member of the faculty and a leading physicist, provided her with the opportunity to enroll.

Aphrodite took the physics course, during her first year of medical school, and completed it successfully, but sadly enough her degree was nonetheless withheld for one year as Robinson had told her it would be. Further, the delay of a full year in receiving her degree prevented her from getting an internship.

Aphrodite Jannopoulo married her medical school classmate, Armin S. Hofsommer, who became a pediatrician after receiving his medical degree in 1922. They raised a son, Armin Jr. (1928-), and a daughter, Helen Hofsommer Glaser (1924-1999) who was a member of the Washington University medical class of 1947. Helen became a pediatrician like her father.

Aphrodite used her artistic talent to illustrate medical works such as the 1931 text “The Diagnosis and treatment of brain tumor” by Ernest Sachs. In 1931, she became the physician for the Webster Groves School District where she worked until retirement. She died in San Mateo, California in 1976.

Carole Skinner Cole (1888-1932) graduated with the class of 1922 after concurrently earning a  bachelor of science from Washington University in 1921. She is pictured with her freshman medical class of 1922, one woman in a group of men, in Figure 1 from The Hatchet yearbook of 1920. According to the 1920 census, she was divorced, lived with her mother, and had a 9-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. Cole practiced with her mother, Caroline Skinner, MD, at 607 North Grand Avenue in St. Louis. Skinner was an 1897 graduate of the Homeopathic Medical College of Missouri who specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. Cole became an inspector in the hygiene department of the St. Louis Board of Education in 1926. She was 44 years old when she died in a plane crash near Steubenville, Ohio while traveling to New York City on an overnight flight to reach her daughter, who was ill. According to the Associated Press and other press reports around March 21, 1932, she was the only passenger in a plane caught in an ice storm.  It was a tragic end for one of these two women who paved the way for so many more who have followed in their footsteps at the School of Medicine.



1920 United States Federal Census for Carol S. Cole, St. Louis Ward 28, District 0593.  St. Louis ,, Missouri, United States.

1930 United States Federal Census for Aphrodite Hofsammer, St. Louis Ward 1, District 68. (1930, April 15). St. Louis, Missouri, United States.

1930 United States Federal Census for Carol S. Cole, St. Louis Ward 28, District 0593. (n.d.). , ,. (1930, April 9). St. Louis, Missouri, United States.

370 GRADUATES AT WASHINGTON U.: Largest Number on Single Occasion in History of Institution. (1922, June 11 ). St. Louis Post Dispatch, p. B8. .

American medical directory: register of legally qualified physicians of the United States and Canada. (1931). Chicago: American Medical Association Press.

Glaser, R. J. (n.d.). February 12, 1991, Letter to Marion (Mrs. Carlton C.) Hunt, concerning the late Dr. Aphrodite Jannopoulo Hofsommer. Robert J. Glaser Papers. Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.

Obituary: Carol Skinner Cole, M.D. (1932). Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association, 29, 282-283.

O’Connor, C. (2003). St. Louis: Washington University in St. Louis. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=tnksAQAAIAAJ&q=%22Carol+Skinner+Cole%22&dq=%22Carol+Skinner+Cole%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj93-vq9dndAhWj64MKHYW2AQcQ6AEIPzAE

Requirements for Admission, footnote. (1918). In Washington University School of Medicine bulletin, March 1918 (p. 68). St. Louis: Washington University. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.wustl.edu/med_bulletins/20

Skinner, Caroline. (2018, [1905], September 26). Retrieved from History of Homœopathy biographies, copyright 2003, [1905]: Source: History of Homoeopathy by William Harvey King: http://www.homeoint.org/history/bio/s/skinnerc.htm

Students, 1918-19: Students attending graduate and special course & first year class. (1919, March). In Washington University School of Medicine bulletin, March 1919 (pp. 49 (Aphrodite Maria Jannopoulo), 55 (Mrs. Carole Skinner Cole)). St. Louis: Washington University School of Medicine.

The First Women to Attend the Washington University School of Medicine. (2018, September 26). Retrieved from Women in the Health Sciences: http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/mowihsp/bios/firstalums.htm

VF08622 [Cole, Carol Skinner: Clippings, 1932]. (1932). In Vertical File Collection, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University School of Medicine.