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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c83

Kathryn Lyle Stephenson papers


The Kathryn Lyle Stephenson papers, 1946-1986, are the result of Stephenson's work as a plastic surgeon and record the development of the speciality in the United States from the mid-1940s to the 1980s.


  • Creation: 1946-1986


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Access requires advance notice. There may be restrictions on access to some materials. Consult Public Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all materials in the collection. Researchers are responsible for identifying and contacting any third-party copyright holders for permission to reproduce or publish. For more information on the Center's use, publication, and reproduction policies, view our Reproductions and Use Policy.


2 cubic feet ((2 records cartons).)

The Kathryn Lyle Stephenson Papers, 1946-1986, are the product of Stephenson's career as a plastic surgeon and document the speciality in the United States during the post-World War II era, with a particular focus on the Santa Barbara, Calif. area.

The bulk of the collection was created from the 1950s through the 1980s and contains biographical records, correspondence, Stephenson's employment records and history, reports, committee minutes, drafts, and unpublished lectures and papers regarding plastic surgery techniques and procedures.

Stephenson was an active participant in plastic surgery professional organizations and her records from these organizations and her correspondence with her colleagues discuss some of the critical issues facing the specialty during a time of growth. These records include correspondence, minutes, brochures, notes, drafts, and reports concerning the emergence of cosmetic and aesthetic surgery, ethics and public relations, growth and development of professional organizations, and editorial management and policy for plastic surgery's leading journal, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Her lectures and writings demonstrate her knowledge of surgical techniques.


Kathryn Lyle Stephenson, 1912-1983, was one of the first female plastic surgeons to practice in the United States and the first woman to be editor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. She was born July 30, 1912 in Kansas City, Mo. She received her BA from the University of Arizona in 1936, and her MD from the University of Kansas Medical School in 1941.

From 1942-1943, Stephenson interned at the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Calif., was an assistant resident in medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, and a resident in pediatrics at the University of Kansas. She began her work in plastic surgery as Earl C. Padgett Research Fellow in Plastic Surgery in 1944. In 1947 Stephenson was appointed Instructor in Plastic Surgery at Tulane University School of Medicine.

In 1949 Stephenson established a private practice in Santa Barbara, Calif., where she remained until her retirement in 1977. She served on the staff of the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, the Santa Barbara General Hospital and St. Francis Hospital.

Stephenson was certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery in 1950 and in 1951 became the first woman to join the American Association of Plastic Surgeons. She served on the board of directors of the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation (1961-1963) and was a founding member and president (1967-1968) of the California Society of Plastic Surgeons. She was also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Stephenson authored several dozen articles and lectures on a wide range of topics about plastic surgery including burns, rhytidectomy, mammoplasty, aesthetic plastic surgery and the history of plastic surgery. Her own publications include Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which she co-authored with Earl C. Padgett in 1948. Stephenson served as co-editor and editor of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery from 1963-1967. She also served as co-editor and editor of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Yearbook from 1967-1975.

She died in 1993.

Series Arrangement

  1. Series I. Professional Correspondence, 1947-1986
  2. Series II. Administrative and Professional Activities Records, 1947-1983
  3. Series III. Lectures and Writings, 1946-1985

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Kathryn Lyle Stephenson papers were donated to the National Archives of Plastic Surgery in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine by Kathryn Lyle Stephenson in 1980 and 1991.

Processing Information

Processed by: Peter Rawson, 2002

Processing note: Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine refoldered and organized the records into 3 series. Restricted records and records that were out of scope for the collection were removed.

Stephenson, Kathryn Lyle, 1912- . Papers, 1946-1986: A Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

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