Louisville NE 68037 & Plattsmouth NE 68048

The History of Women and Physical Therapy

March 14, 2023


Did you know that March is Women’s History month? Did you know that women played a major role in starting and shaping physical therapy? It is important to look back on all the contributions that women have made in history, and as a physical therapy company it is especially important to understand how they shaped the profession of physical therapy.

In the United States Mary McMillian lead and trained a group of “reconstruction aides” to help the soldiers wounded in World War I get back to daily life. The first research article for physical therapy was published in March 1921 and in 1924 the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association was established. This organization now functions as the American Physical Therapy Association and is a resource to both physical therapists and patients.

As physical therapy began to grow the polio pandemic became a global issue. The women of physical therapy were used to help restore passive range of motion. In 1940 Sister Elizabeth Kenny brought her treatment practices to the United States to help patients who had been diagnosed with polio.

Throughout the next major wars several woman physical therapists enlisted to be stationed at bases where they could treat injured and wounded soldiers. After the war the profession was expanded to include more civilian uses and to cover injuries that include neuromuscular and cardiovascular issues.

Without these pioneer women the profession of physical therapy may look very different today!