Amongst the first students enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine of Geneva in the last decades of the 19th century were many women, mostly originating from Eastern Europe. After graduation, only few remained in Geneva. The life of three early graduates illustrates the difficulties encountered by women doctors at the turn of the century in Geneva and some of the ways to overcome the resistance encountered. Henriette de Joudra (1856-1928) married a Swiss physician and practised in town; the Société médicale de Genève however never granted her membership. Marguerite Champendal (1870-1928), one of the first Swiss nationals to graduate, created a school for nurses that she directed until her untimely death. Lina Stern (1878-1968), of Russian origin, turned after graduation to laboratory research and to university teaching: she performed original research in biochemistry and in the neurosciences. From 1918 onwards she was the first woman having professional rank at the University of Geneva. After 1925 she pursued a brilliant academic career in the Soviet Union.