International Women’s Day

The Finnish Academy of Science and Letters celebrates The International Women’s Day with a series portraying women of the Academy. Laimi Leidenius, a medical researcher and doctor, did her life’s work in gynecology. She is especially known as a developer of maternity care and neonatal care.


Laimi Leidenius (1877–1938) first graduated as a language teacher in 1896, but decided to study medicine. Leidenius graduated as a licentiate in medicine in 1908. Before Leiden, only nine women had graduated as doctors in Finland.

Leidenius graduated as a doctor of medicine and surgery in 1918. She was the third doctoral doctor in Finland with her dissertation on the effect of postpartum disinfection on uterine bacteria after childbirth. Leidenius was appointed Docent of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Helsinki in 1925, being the second woman at the University of Helsinki to be awarded the title of Docent. Among other jobs, she also worked as a private doctor.

Leidenius published studies on, among other things, birth spasms, uterine cancer and its treatment, and the function of the endocrine glands in newborns. Leidenius made excursions abroad, including Germany, France, England and the Scandinavian countries.

Laimi Leidenius was elected as an assistant member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences in 1926.

Laimi Leidenius was appointed Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Helsinki in 1930. During that time, she also worked as a chief physician in the obstetrics department. Leiden became the first woman professor of medicine in Finland and the Nordic countries. She was also the first woman appointed to a permanent professorship in Finland.

In addition to his work, Leidenius held many positions of trust. She was a member of the Committee for the Prevention of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, a member of the Organizing Committee for Maternity Care, and a member of the Construction Committee of the Women’s Clinic. She was the chairman of the Finnish Gynecological Society from 1934 until her death, and the chairman of the Finnish Association of Academic Women for several years. Leidenius also participated in social activities aimed at developing and promoting the health care of the population.

Leidenius died in 1938 of renal failure. She had suffered from fatigue and headaches to which she had taken headache powders. The damage to the kidneys caused by some painkillers was not yet known at the time.

The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim grants the Laimi Leidenius Recognition Award. The prize is awarded in the end of February or March on Women’s Day, and is worth 15,000 euros (https://www.duodecim.fi/english/).

More information in Finnish:

Article in national biography: https://kansallisbiografia.fi/kansallisbiografia/henkilo/6855

University of Helsinki Science Exhibition project: https://www.mv.helsinki.fi/home/eisaksso/tiedenaiset/leidenius.html

Women in the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters:

Part 1: Doctor of Philosophy Liisi Karttunen https://www.acadsci.fi/ajanohtaista/849-oikein-hyvaa-naistenpaivaa.html (In Finnish)
Part 2: Elsa Ryti, Doctor of Medicine and Surgery https://www.acadsci.fi/ajanohtaista/ajanohtaista-2021/851-oikein-hyvaa-minna-canthin-paivaa.html (In Finnish)
Part 3: medical researcher, doctor Laimi Leidenius

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