Mary McMillan – A True PT Pioneer

Mary McMillan – A True PT Pioneer

Happy Women’s History Month!


To honor Women’s History Month, BreakThrough would like to take this opportunity to honor one of the first-ever female physical therapists, Mary McMillan, that paved the way for many female physical therapists from around the world.

Who is Mary McMillan?  Why was she (and still is) such a huge inspiration to all aspiring female therapists around the world?

To keep it brief, McMillan, a fully educated woman, decided to learn the modern techniques of massage and physical therapy in Europe.  From there, she made it her mission to become the first US Army “Reconstruction Aide” and incorporated her training to treat wounded soldiers with physical therapy techniques.

After the war, McMillan decided that she would like to teach the world about physical therapy so she decided to write a book titled Massage and Therapeutic Exercise.  To continue with this achievement, she taught her first course in physical therapy at Reed College.  Since she was so passionate about physical therapy, she gave half of her fortune to the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research to fund more research on physical therapy.  

McMillan and her committee decided they wanted to form an organization that would preserve physical therapy resources while maintaining a core group of people passionate about physical therapy.  And thus, the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association was born.  

On March 24th, 1921, by the majority, McMillan became the first president of the AWPTA, another amazing accomplishment of McMillan.  

To continue her legacy, the American Physical Therapy Association has made a scholarship in honor of her name.  The Mary McMillan scholarship’s purpose is to recognize students who displayed consistent scholastic ability and potential professional contribution.

McMillan is definitely an inspiration to all aspiring and hardworking female physical therapists.  Truly if it wasn’t for her, there would be fewer women in the physical therapy field.  Thank you Mary McMillan for going through the challenges of being one of the first women in physical therapy and for building a strong foundation for many girls and women to chase their dreams.


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