CANFIELD, MARTHA ANN ROBINSON, MD (10 Sept. 1845-3 Sept. 1916), homeopathic physician, was one of Cleveland's first women physicians.She was born in Freedom (Portage County), Ohio, to Henry and Eliza Brown Robinson. Canfield attended Hiram College and graduated from Oberlin College in 1868. In 1869, she married attorney Harrison Wade Canfield. She taught school in Oberlin before choosing medicine as her profession.

A protégé of MYRA KING MERRICK, she was barred from entering most "regular" or allopathic medical schools and instead entered the Medical College of CLEVELAND HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITAL (HOMEOPATHY), where she studied with Dr. Charles Morrell. After graduating in 1875, she began practicing in Cleveland. She also studied in Germany and France.

Canfield became professor of gynecology at the Medical College of Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital (1890-97). Gynecology and obstetrics were not taught in regular medical schools until the early twentieth century, and since few respectable women would allow a male doctor to examine them or oversee their childbirth, gynecology was a wide-open field for women physicians. 

Canfield served on the staff of the Maternity Hospital, established in 1891 as a homeopathic hospital for poor women. Canfield succeeded Merrick as the director of the Women's and Children's Free Medical and Surgical Dispensary in 1909.

In 1910, educator Abraham Flexner published a report critical of medical education, recommending, among other things, that medical students receive in-hospital training. Most hospitals did not allow women on staff. In response, Canfield and others established Women's Hospital (WOMAN'S GENERAL HOSPITAL) in 1912, an offshoot of the original dispensary. It served men, women, and children and was staffed by both homeopathic and allopathic doctors, male and female. In 1917, the hospital became affiliated with the Western Reserve University School of Medicine (CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY) and became an allopathic institution. In 1925, it moved to UNIVERSITY CIRCLE and became Macdonald House of UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS.

Like Merrick, Canfield was an enthusiastic advocate for women and a frequent public speaker. The solution to the rising divorce rate, she maintained in 1886, was more responsibility and rights for women in marriage. She crusaded for temperance, arguing that the abuse of alcohol fell more heavily on women than men and against houses of prostitution that spread disease among innocent women and children.

Canfield belonged to the Cleveland Hospital Council, CLEVELAND SOROSIS, the Women's Press Club of Cleveland, and the COLLEGE CLUB OF CLEVELAND. Canfield was a member of the Euclid Avenue Congregational Church.

Canfield had four children. One son, Charles, died at an early age. The others were Hiram H. Canfield, city manage of CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, 1920-1945; Elma (Mrs. H. B.) Cody, and Mary (Mrs. J.R.) Ewers. Canfield is buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.


Marian Morton

Jenkins, Glen. “Women Physicians and Women’s General Hospital” in Kent L. Brown, ed. Medicine in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, 1810-1976 (1977)

Morton, Marian J.

Morton, Marian J.  And Sin No More: Social Policy and Unwed Mothers in Cleveland, 1855-1990 (1993)

Wylie, Burdett, “Obstetrics and Gynecoloy and the Cleveland Hospital Obstetric Society,“ in Brown, ed.

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