first female professor of medicine
Laimi Leidenius was the first female professor of medicine in
Finland and in all of Scandinavia. The field of Leidenius
professorship was obstetrics and gynaecology. She was also the
first female professor and holder of a permanent chair at the
University of Helsinki. Leidenius contributed significantly to
the development of prenatal care, midwifery and maternity
Laimi Leidenius defended her doctoral dissertation in 1913 on
the effects of disinfection on the postpartum bacterial
content of the uterus. In the following years, she practised
medicine, continued her research and made study trips abroad.
She published a study based on animal experiments in the field
of endocrinology (together with Professor A. Seitz) and a
statistical survey of the occurrence and reasons for eclampsia
in labour. Later she did research on uterine cancer. In 1925
Leidenius was appointed Docent of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
at the University of Helsinki. Teaching obstetrics was
Leidenius' true calling: a friend has characterised her as
"first and foremost, she was an obstetrician".
Leidenius, like many other physicians, was interested in the
social issues of her time, especially mothers' welfare. In her
early popular pamphlets she discussed morality and eugenics.
Later she focussed on gynaecological diseases, pregnancy and
labour, and wrote, for example, manuals for expectant mothers.
She was active in the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare and
its efforts to organise medical prenatal care. The first
maternity clinics of the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare
were established in Viipuri and Helsinki in the early 1920s.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Leidenius played an active
role in the planning of the new Second Department of
Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Helsinki, and
headed the department until her death in 1938. In addition to
all her scientific and welfare activities, she ran an
extensive private practice.
1 Laimi Leidenius as student. Photo: National Board of Antiquities.
2 Laimi Leidenius with a microscope. Photo: NBA.
3-5 Pictures from a private collection of Anto Leikola. No. 4
is dated 1916 and the person with Leidenius is Arvo Ylppö.