Physical Therapy was officially recognized as a Profession during World War 1 when Female Civilian Employees of the U.S Army were tasked with rehabilitating injured soldiers using primary massage techniques. They were called Reconstruction Aides or Re-Aides and were assigned to Physicians.
There were lots of challenges for the first Physical Therapists in the US, can you imagine your Physical Therapist working in a skirt?
Marguerite Sanderson heads the first Reconstruction Aides at the Division of Physical Reconstruction during the War. She led the political battle for proper uniformed attire by presenting her case to Senators and Congressmen about the practicality of allowing Reconstruction Aides to work in uniformed Bloomers rather than Skirts, but she lost.
In 1918, Mary McMillan became the first Reconstruction Aide and went on to develop the Physiotherapy Department at Walter Reed General Hospital, but the department was dismantled when the war was over.
After the war ended in 1921, Mary McMillian and her Colleagues formed the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association. McMillan was nominated President and is now known as the “Mother of Physical Therapy.”
Currently, in the U.S 64% of Physical Therapists are Women, with more Men joining the Profession.