March is Women’s History Month and we decided to give a well-deserved spotlight to the “Mother of Physical Therapy”, Mary McMillan!
Mary McMillan began practicing in physical therapy when it was first introduced in 1918 at Walter Reed hospital in Washington D.C. McMillan was not given proper space for physical therapy, therefore she administered treatments to patients on the hospital wards and utilized porch space for group exercise. Physical therapy was known as a new specialty, therefore equipment and space weren’t allocated properly. During this time physical therapists were known as “Reconstruction aides” and had a background in physical education as a foundation.
In 1921, physical therapists formed their first professional association called the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association. This association was led by President Mary McMillan including 274 charter members and an executive committee of elected officers (all women by the way!). The association allowed men to join in 1922 and changed its name to the American Physiotherapy Association (APA).
Today, the physical therapy profession is comprised of 70% women. Although the profession of physical therapy does not deal with the same women’s rights issues as other fields, there is unfortunately a large difference in pay for women versus men physical therapists. The U.S. Census Bureau of 2013 states male physical therapists make $10,000 more than female physical therapists. There are advocacy efforts being made in the physical therapy profession to bridge the gap between male and female income.
We would like to thank Mary McMillan as well as all other pioneering women for paving the way for each and every physical therapist working then and now. Also a special shout out to our amazing women physical therapists here at Forever Fit Physical Therapy and Wellness! #WomeninPT