The Immigrant Experience
Ellis Island Overview
The Registry Room
Female Patients: Many immigrant women were frightened by Ellis Island's clinical routine. For example, women being examined by male doctors, being touched by men other than their husbands, could be a traumatic experience. However, in 1914, two female doctors were appointed to the medical staff. "Prior to that, Public Health Service rules required the presence of a matron during the examination of an immigrant woman by a male doctor."
Trachoma: A highly contagious infection that could cause blindness, known as Trachoma, was common in southeastern Europe, but barely known in the United States. Doctors checked for this disease by raising the eyelid with either their fingers, a hairpin, or buttonhook -- painful, but quick. Because Trachoma was so difficult to cure, those who were infected were generally isolated and sent back to their ports of origin.
Medical inspection cards that recorded the health history of an immigrant while on board the ship were presented to Ellis Island physicians for final examination. If the immigrant was in good health, the card was stamped "passed."