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Florence Rena Sabin papers

Identifier: SSC-MS-00136

Scope and Contents

The Florence Rena Sabin Papers consists of correspondence, notes, printed material, photographs, and memorabilia and consist of both professional and personal material. The bulk of the papers date from 1925 with very little material from her Johns Hopkins years. The papers include correspondence with family and friends, especially colleagues in medicine, research, and education; and a voluminous file of letters with her sister. The material represents Sabin's wide interests and activities, especially after 1938 when she moved to Colorado. The Papers include awards and citations, photographs, memorabilia and publications. They also contain manuscript notes from scientific studies, many published articles, reports on her work with various organizations (notably the Rockefeller Institute, the National Tuberculosis Association), and organizations related to Colorado public health.

Selected documents and images from the Florence Sabin Papers are featured in the exhibit Profiles in Science on the National Library of Medicine Web site.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1872-1985


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials in this collection may be governed by copyright. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Florence Rena Sabin was born November 9, 1871, in Central City, Colorado, the youngest of two daughters of Serena Miner and George K. Sabin. Her father was a mining engineer and she spent her early years in mining communities. Serena Sabin died when Florence was seven and she and her sister, Mary, lived with relatives in Chicago and Vermont. Sabin graduated from Smith College in 1893. In order to earn money for medical school, she taught mathematics in Denver for two years and was an assistant in the Zoology Department at Smith College from 1895 to1896. She entered Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1896 as a member of the fourth class to admit women. Upon graduation she was awarded an internship with renowned teacher and physician Sir William Osler at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Under the direction of embryologist and head of the Department of Anatomy, Franklin P. Mall, she undertook a project which led to the construction of a three-dimensional model of the mid and lower brain. It was adapted for publication in 1901.

After completing her internship in 1901, Sabin continued her anatomical and histological research with the help of a fellowship from a group of Baltimore women who aided women's education. In 1902, she became assistant in the department of anatomy, the first woman on the Hopkins medical faculty. She rose to full professor in 1917, the first woman at the university to achieve that rank. Sabin spent twenty-five years at Hopkins and during her early years there she concentrated her research mainly upon the origins of blood cells and the lymphatic system. She wrote a number of widely cited papers based upon her work. Sabin had many devoted students, many of whom followed scientific careers, and a number of them became leaders in the fields of anatomy, immunology, and hematology. In 1925, she became the first woman elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences. She also was the first woman to receive full membership at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. At the institute she worked for thirteen years as head of a section that studied the cellular aspects of immunity.

Sabin retired to Colorado in 1938 to live with her sister Mary. She remained professionally active and carried on an extensive correspondence with her former students and colleagues. In 1944, she was asked by Colorado governor John Vivian to serve on his post-war planning committee which was organized to assess public health needs in the state. She did research, traveled, spoke, and wrote extensively. She lobbied colleagues, legislators and state officials to support a reorganized and better-financed public health program and worked for successful passage of a series of health laws drafted by her committee and known as the Sabin program. In 1947 she was appointed chair of the Interim Board of Health and Hospitals of Denver, a post she held until 1951. Sabin received many honors and awards. Buildings were named for her at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and at Smith College. She is one of two Coloradoans and one of a handful of women represented by statues in the United States Capitol. Sabin died October 3, 1953, in Denver of a heart attack.


14.042 linear feet (33 containers)


Physician; Professor; and Public health specialist. Papers consist of notes, awards, citations, photographs, printed material, photographs, and memorabilia and include both professional and personal material. Also correspondence with family and friends, especially colleagues in medicine, research, and education; and a voluminous file of letters with her sister.


This collection is organized into five series:

  1. I. Biographical Materials
  2. II. Correspondence
  3. III. Speeches and Writings
  4. IV. Professional Activities
  5. V. Subjects

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the Florence Rena Sabin Papers were given by Dr. Henry Swan in 1959. Biographical sketches were donated by Marjorie L. Craig in 1955 and material related to Sabin's work in Colorado was donated by Elinor Bluemel in 1960.

Additional Formats

Selected documents and images from the Florence Sabin Papers are featured in the exhibit Profiles in Science on the National Library of Medicine Web site.

Related Material

Additional papers are located at American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia. There are scattered items in the Smith College Archives; the University of Colorado Medical School; and the Colorado State Historical Society, Division of Museums.

Florence Sabin is also featured in the National Library of Medicine's exhibit, Changing the Face of Medicine.

Processing Information

Reprocessed by Susan Boone, 2002.

Florence Rena Sabin papers
Finding Aid
Susan Boone
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: mnsss110 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2017-07-26T17:48:10-04:00: This record was migrated from InMagic DB Textworks to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2022-03-03: Integrated description of oversized materials

Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063