Way Back When... 1961
Published 12:00 am, Friday, April 21, 2017
Emily Dunning Barringer, who has a road in Darien named for her, died in April of 1961.
Barringer was the world’s first female ambulance surgeon and the first woman to secure a surgical residency.
Emily Dunning was born in Scarsdale, New York to Edwin James Dunning and Frances Gore Lang in 1876. The well-to-do New York family fell on hard times when she was about ten years old, and her father left for Europe to try to recoup his fortune, leaving her mother with five children.
When a well-meaning friend of Dunning’s mother suggested that the girl might become a milliner’s apprentice, her mother said “That settles the question. You are going to go to college.” Dr. Mary Corinna Putnam Jacobi, a friend of the family, recommended Cornell University’s medical preparatory course, and her uncle, Henry W. Sage, a founder of Cornell, agreed to pay her tuition. Other family friends also helped with expenses. Emily Dunning graduated in 1897 and decided to attend the College of Medicine of the New York Infirmary. During her sophomore year there, the college merged with the new Cornell University School of Medicine.
She earned her medical degree in 1901, then received the second highest grade in the qualifying exam for an internship at Gouverneur Hospital in New York City. The hospital denied her application. The next year she applied again, this time with the support from political and religious figures, and the hospital accepted her—the first woman ever accepted for post-graduate surgical training in service to a hospital.
Barringer Road in Darien was named for the glass ceiling breaker as she lived both in New Canaan and Darien in her life.
Her experiences as the first female ambulance surgeon were the basis for her autobiography, Bowery to Bellevue, published in 1950. Later made into the MGM film The Girl in White, it starred June Allyson as Emily and Arthur Kennedy as her husband, Dr. Ben Barringer.
Emily Barringer was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000.