Physical Therapy Facts
Physical therapy was officially recognized as a profession during World War I when female civilian employees of the U.S. Army were tasked with rehabilitating injured soldiers using primarily massage techniques. They were called reconstruction aides or re-aides and were assistants to physicians rather than today’s autonomous profession.
Can you imagine your physical therapist working in a skirt? That was the challenge for the first physical therapists in the U.S.
Marguerite Sanderson directed the first reconstruction aides at the Division of Physical Reconstruction. She led the political battle for proper uniformed attire by presenting her case to Senators and Congressman about the practicality of allowing reconstruction aides to work in uniformed bloomers rather than skirts — and 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 program was dismantled when the war was over.