Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska

* 13.04.1854 (Mlawa) 12.06.1918 (Warsaw) Poland
Fields of activity: doctor
Author: Ewa Dziwisz, Ewa Podogrocka

Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska

»Per aspera ad astra«

Why I consider this woman to be an important person:

Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska was the first woman who, after graduating from the university started a medical practice in Poland. She paved the way for the future Polish women doctors and fought for women's rights. She was tenacious in the pursuit of her goal, and despite enormous obstacles she became one of the best doctors in the field of gynecology and obstetrics. Money gained in wealthy homes she used to cover the costs of treatment of poor patients.

She published many scientific articles and applied innovative methods in her medical work.


Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska was born in a family of civil servants. She completed secondary education in Lomza and in Warsaw at Paszkiewiczowa’s school. At the age of 17, she went to study medicine in Zurich (the first European university, which in 1867 made ​​a breakthrough allowing women to study).Polish universities under all three annexations were closed to women. In autumn 1871 Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska became a student of the Faculty of Medicine. Already during her third year of study she participated in the research work. During the fifth year of study in recognition for her work she receives the position of assistant to prof. Edward Hitzig (a German neurologist and psychiatrist) in the Institute for the Mentally Ill in Zurich. In 1877, Anna Tomaszewicz working under the guidance of a renowned physiologist Professor Ludimar Herman submitted a research paper on its basis she obtained a doctorate of medicine. After graduation she shortly works in hospitals in Vienna and Berlin. She received an offer to work in Japan as an assistant to one of the professors. Despite this she returned to her beloved Warsaw.

Her return was a tough test, she encountered humiliations and ostracism of the medical community. She was not allowed to pass the state exam, which would give her the right to practice in the Poland. She fought to be accepted as a member of the Polish Society of Medicine. Unfortunately her candidacy was rejected (the main reason was the fact that she was a female).

The desperate Anna Tomaszewicz moved to St. Petersburg, where she manages to pass the state exam. The two-year stay in St. Petersburg was a very traumatic period. The difficult financial situation, unemployment and the harsh climate undermined her health (the beginnings of lung disease). The confirmed diploma enabled her to practice medicine in the field of women's health and pediatrics within the limits of the Polish Kingdom and Russia.

A breakthrough in her career comes in the year 1882 is when a dangerous epidemic of infection during childbirth breaks out in Warsaw. In order to save many lives a few maternity shelters were opened. Shelter number 2 (Prosta Str.) was entrusted to Ann Tomaszewicz, she led it continuously for 29 years (1882-1911). After some time it became a model maternity hospital. According to statistics in the period of her activity, the mortality rate decreased to less than 1%, which was unique in the world. She was the first to perform a caesarean in Warsaw, in 1896. In addition to therapeutics and maternity work, she conducted research and teaching. She educated many excellent doctors and a huge number of midwives. She spent all her holidays in the clinics of Berlin and Paris, getting acquainted with the latest developments. Diligence combined with the beauty and spiritual values ​​gained her the sympathy of professors and the entourage. She gained fame and a huge trust, and became one of the most successful doctors in Warsaw.

At the same time she did social work in many organizations: Warsaw Charitable Society, the Society Summer Camps for Children, Shelter for teachers.

At the age of 52 years she began to actively work in the Society of Polish Culture. She also participated in the work of various women's organizations.



  • Zembrzuski Ludwik. Dobrska Tomaszewicz Anna [w:] Polski Słownik Biograficzny, t.5, Kraków, s. 259
  • Filar Zbigniew. Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska. Karta z dziejów polskich lekarek, Warszawa 1959.
  • Piotr Szarejko. Słownik lekarzy polskich XIX wieku, tom II, Wydawnictwo Naukowe „Semper”, Warszawa 1994, s. 54-57.

Photo source

Description; Anna Tomaszewicz_Dobrska

Date: 1883

Author: Jan Mieczkowski ( 1830-1889)

Source: The copy of the photo from the book by Zbigniew Filar; “ Anna Tomaszewicz-Dobrska - Karta z dziejów polskich lekarek, Warszawa 1959.

Consent to use the photo was received from publisher.

Right: The photo taken in 1883 by photographer Jan Mieczkowski,who lived 1830 - 1889. In Public Domain.