Doris McCraw/Angela Raines
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In January 1991, “Doc Susie, The true story of a country physician in the Colorado Rockies” was given to the world. This biography of Dr. Susan Anderson began the legend of the lone woman doctor who gave up so much to follow her dreams. This legend became a myth when “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” hit the airwaves in 1993, two years after the release of the book. Both were full of drama and pathos.
But was Dr. Anderson the norm for women doctors, or is there more to the story? Susan Anderson , born January 31, 1870, received her license to practice medicine in Colorado in 1897 and the bulk of her story takes place in Frasier, Colorado after 1907, where she was the lone doctor, and never married. To put this in perspective, Colorado had women physicians as early as 1873. Dr. Alida Avery came to Denver, Colorado in 1874 from Vassar, where she taught and was their physician for nine years. Like Doc Susie she also remained single.
In 1876, according to relatives, Dr. Harriet Leonard arrived in Manitou Springs, Colorado, with husband and children. By 1878 she was joined by Dr. Julia E. Loomis, Dr. Esther B. Holmes and shortly after Dr. Clarabel Rowe in Colorado Springs. All four of these women were married and practiced their chosen career, along with the sixteen other doctors in the area in the late 1870’s. Dr. Loomis went to medical school in her 50’s. None of these women, who appear to have been married prior to going for their medical degree, could have achieved their goal without a least some support from their husbands.
Between 1870 and 1880 Colorado saw the arrival of many physicians, which included a number of women. This may have in part been due to Colorado being touted for a climate known for helping those who suffered from consumption. Note, consumption was not just TB, but any wasting disease. There was another spurt from 1890-1900. Yes, many of these women congregated in the larger towns, to include the boom towns of Leadville, Cripple Creek and Victor. Once the floodgates were opened, women physicians made their way to Colorado. Many became involved in the suffrage movement, while others worked to better the conditions of others. Dr. Caroline Spencer of Colorado Springs and Dr. Alida Avery worked for the rights of women. Dr. Mary Helen Barker Bates helped start a hospital in Leadville. Dr. Kate Yont worked in the Italian community with the naturalization process in Denver. Some carried guns, others didn’t have to, but all have stories waiting to be told.
So you see, while the story of Dr. Susan ‘Doc Susie’ Anderson is a wonderful story, it is by far not the norm for women doctors in the state of Colorado. There were many before her who also followed the dream of helping people in need.
Doris McCraw has been researching the women doctors in Colorado prior to 1900 for some time. Finding the stories of these pioneering and determined women is a passion. Doris also writes fiction under the pen name Angela Raines where she tells the stories of strong women and men who find the strength to love, much like the women doctors who followed their dreams.
Author Page: http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL
What do you think was the biggest challenge for those early female doctors?
Four lucky readers will win one of these delightful e-books. The rest of us can order by clicking on the covers.