Rachel Nicol (physician)

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Rachel Jane Nicol
Other namesRachel "Jennie" Nicol
Alma materMonmouth College
Known forCo-founder of national women’s fraternity (aka sorority)

Rachel Jane "Jennie" Nicol (1845—1881) was a founder of Pi Beta Phi and a physician. In 1867, she co-founded I.C. Sorosis at Monmouth College in Illinois, the first secret collegiate society for women patterned after men’s fraternities, which later adopted the Greek name Pi Beta Phi (ΠΒΦ).[1] Pi Beta Phi is now an international organization with over 300,000 members. At a time when there were only a few hundred women physicians in the United States[2] she received the M.D. degree in 1879.


The only daughter among five children born to an Illinois farming couple, Nicol graduated from Monmouth College (Illinois) in 1868. She continued her education at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and graduated with an M.D. degree in 1879. She then interned at New England Hospital in Boston.[3]

In 1880, she sailed to Switzerland and enrolled in the University of Zurich, where she "attended two lectures daily and the remainder of the time devoting to the clinics and the hospitals; am also having practice work in the pathological laboratory…"[4] There she died an untimely death from meningitis and/or complications of pneumonia.[5][6]

In her honor, Pi Beta Phi, the sorority she helped found, built and supplied the Jennie Nicol Memorial Health Center that operated in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, from 1922 until 1965.[7][8]


  1. ^ Clarke-Helmick, Elizabeth Allen (1915) "The History of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity" Page 19 published by Pi Beta Phi Fraternity. Retrieved October 18, 2015
  2. ^ Newcomer, Mabel (1959). A Century of Higher Education for American Women. New York: Zenger Publishing Company. ISBN 9780892010028.
  3. ^ Becque, Fran (November 11, 2012). "Doctors Who Wore Badges: Fraternity Women in Medicine 1867–1902". Focus on Fraternity History & More. http://www.franbecque.com/. Retrieved October 18, 2015. External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ Jamison, Matthew H. (2012). Recollections of Pioneer and Army Life. HardPress. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9781290401364.
  5. ^ Abram, Ruth J. (1985). Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835–1920. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 136. ISBN 9780393302783.
  6. ^ Medical and Surgical Reporter. 45. Philadelphia. 1881. p. 28.
  7. ^ "Jennie Nicol Memorial Health Center" (PDF). The University Of Tennessee Knoxville. http://www.lib.utk.edu/. Retrieved October 18, 2015. External link in |publisher= (help)
  8. ^ "Rachel Jane "Jennie" Nicol". Warren County Virtual Museum. http://warrencountyvirtualmuseum.com/. Retrieved October 18, 2015. External link in |publisher= (help)