Estelle Ramey

Estelle Rosemary Ramey (August 23, 1917 – September 8, 2006) was an American endocrinologist, physiologist and feminist who became internationally known for refuting surgeon and Democratic Party leader Edgar Berman, who stated that women were unfit to hold high public office because of "raging hormonal imbalances." Ramey's balanced approach to life was embodied in a later quote, "I have loved. And been loved. And all the rest is background music." [1]

Estelle R. Ramey, Ph.D.
Estelle Rosemary Ramey

August 27, 1917
Detroit, Michigan, United States
DiedSeptember 8, 2006 (aged 89)
Bethesda, Maryland, United States
Other namesStella Rubin, Stella Ramey
OccupationEndocrinologist and educator

Early life

Born Stella Rosemary Rubin in Detroit, Michigan to Jewish immigrant parents, Ramey grew up in Brooklyn, New York after moving with her family as an infant. She was named by her mother as a "star." A French immigrant, her mother had a third-grade education and was illiterate. Throughout her childhood, Ramey's mother encouraged her and her siblings to pursue education.[2] In grade school, a teacher insisted that she formalize her name as Estelle in order to register.[3] Ramey's father died when she was a teenager.


Ramey graduated high school at 15 and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and biology from Brooklyn College at 19. In the midst of the Great Depression, she earned a $750-a-year teaching fellowship at Queens College in New York and later obtained her master's degree in physical chemistry from Columbia University in 1940.[4] In 1950, she received a doctorate in physiology from the University of Chicago.[5] Throughout her lifetime, Ramey was awarded 14 honorary degrees. She was the first woman faculty member at the University of Chicago Medical School.[3]

Teaching and research

In 1941, Ramey applied for a job at the University of Tennessee Department of Chemistry, but was refused after being told she "ought to go home and take care of my husband." After the United States entered World War II just a few months later, the department chairman offered Ramey a position teaching thermodynamics and biochemistry to military cadets.[6]

Political controversy

In 1970, Dr. Edgar Berman, a retired surgeon, dismissed U.S. Representative Patsy Mink's call for action on women's rights during a session of the Democratic Party's Committee on National Priorities. Asserting what he considered severe differences between men and women, Berman insisted that women's

raging storms of monthly hormonal imbalances" made them unfit for high office. He said, "Suppose that we had a menopausal woman president who had to make the decision of the Bay of the Pigs? ... All things being equal, I would still rather have had a male JFK make the Cuban missile crisis decisions than a female of similar age."[6]

As an endocrinologist, Ramey wrote letters to the Washington Evening Star and the Washington Post criticizing Berman's claims. In one letter, she wrote that she was "startled to learn that ovarian hormones are toxic to brain cells," and also mentioned that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy was suffering from Addison's disease and that his medications for that severe hormonal disorder were capable of causing severe mood swings.[6]

The Women's National Press Club hosted a debate between Ramey and Berman in which he opened with, "I really love women." Ramey responded: "So did Henry VIII." According to The Washington Post Ramey had dominated the debate with Berman. Following the debate, Berman resigned from the Democratic National Committee and Ramey became a public speaker on women's rights.[6]


Ramey published over 150 research articles throughout her lifetime. In 1971, she published a story in the first issue of Ms. magazine entitled, "Male Cycles (They Have Them, Too)."[7][8][9][10]

Honors and awards

In 1989, Ramey was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.[11] Since 2000, the Georgetown University Medical Center presents an annual Estelle Ramey Mentorship Award to "honor faculty who have provided outstanding encouragement, support, and mentorship for GUMC women faculty to reach their maximum professional potential." Women and men are eligible for the award.[12] Ramey also participated in two interviews with Columbia University's Oral History Research project.[13]


  1. "Estelle R. Ramey". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  2. "Wellesley Commencement Address". Retrieved 29 July 2015.
  3. Imperiale, Nancy (December 3, 1991). "A Spokeswoman For Women". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  4. Fox, Margalit (September 12, 2006). "Estelle R. Ramey, 89, Who Used Medical Training to Rebut Sexism, Is Dead". The New York Times.
  5. Sullivan, Patricia (September 10, 2006). "Estelle R. Ramey; Used Wit in Women's Advocacy". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  6. "How 'raging' hormones sparked a war of words - Obituaries". The Sydney Morning Herald. September 22, 2006. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  7. Woo, Elaine (2006-09-17). "Estelle Ramey, 89; Doctor, Sharp-Tongued Feminist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  8. Cimons, Marlene Frances (2008). "The Medicalization of Menopause: Framing Media Messages in the Twentieth Century". ISBN 9780549661832. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. Rossiter, Margaret W (2012-02-21). "Women Scientists in America". ISBN 9781421402338. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. Berman, Phyllis W.; Ramey, Estelle R. (1982). "Women: A Developmental Perspective". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. "Estelle R. Ramey, Ph.D. (1917-2006)". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  12. Georgetown Women In Medicine. "Annual Awards: Estelle Ramey Mentorship Award". Georgetown Women in Medicine. Archived from the original on 2013-12-11. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  13. Margaret W. Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Forging a New World Since 1972 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012) at p. lxvi n.9
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