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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Andre (Moul) Ross: One of the Few Women to Become a Veterinarian During World War II

Posted May 24, 2012.
By Dr. Donald F. Smith, Cornell University
This historical blog is in recognition of the 150th anniversary 
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (1863-2013)

Seven women were admitted to Cornell’s veterinary college in 1935 and 1936. This represented about eight percent of those classes, an astonishingly high proportion for that period. However, by the end of the decade, fewer women were admitted to Cornell and only one in the class that arrived in 1939.

Andre (Moul) Ross, Cornell DVM 1943
Graduation Photo, Cornell University
Andre Moul was raised in Gloversville, NY. While helping deliver piglets from the sow of a family friend, she became hooked on the idea of becoming a veterinarian. Despite her mother’s encouragement to become a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary, 11-year-old Andre couldn’t be dissuaded from wanting to become a veterinarian. 

Back in the thirties, girls seldom went to college”, Dr. Ross said in a 1998 interview. “The belief was that educating a girl to become a veterinarian robbed a worthy boy of his education as the girl would most likely marry and never practice”.

With her mother’s support, Andre enrolled in Cornell’s agricultural college in 1938 for her requisite year of pre-veterinary education. A year later, she began her veterinary studies as the sole woman in the class of 40 students. 

The horse (not dog) was still the principal species used in first-year dissection classes. Clinical experiences during the final two years were divided equally between the small and large animal clinics. Though there were occasional class exercises in which she was not allowed to participate because of her gender, she shared most learning activities with her male colleagues. 

Andre (Moul) Ross, the only woman in Cornell's Veterinary Class of 1943
with four of her classmates and an equine patient.
Photo provided by Ms. Carol Shank, 2012

Male veterinary students from several classes
in uniform during WWII at Cornell University
Photo by Cornell University.
Cornell was transformed into a quasi-military base during WWII with most male veterinary students enrolled in some form of military training. Summers were used for instruction to accelerate the curriculum and enable the male veterinarians to be commissioned upon graduation.

In May 1942, Andre married a recently-graduated engineering student named Donald Gunn Ross, Jr. They had met as members of the Cornell Radio Guild where he was the chief engineer and she the sound effects engineer. Andre moved from the dorm where single students were required to live, to married student housing.

For nearly 15 years after graduation, I took on the role of wife and mother”, Andre wrote in 1998. Then she gradually returned to veterinary medicine, first as part-time small animal practitioner, and eventually as practice owner. She finished her career in Stone Ridge, New York until her retirement in 1993.

The author is grateful to Dr. Ross' daughter, Ms. Carol Shank, for providing stories and photographs of her mother. The quotations of Dr. Ross are from an article she wrote, "On Becoming a Vet", Blue Stone Press, October 16, 1998. Dr.  Ross died in 2006.

Dr. Smith welcomes comments at