Lacy J Williams ~ Women Docs in the Old West

lacy author photo_webI admire ladies who have done home births. I deeply admire them—but I probably wouldn’t want to be one of them! When it came time to deliver my three children, I wanted the hospital, the nurses, and yes, the doctor there to help me!

And do you know, I never really spared much thought for what my doctor went through to get her education. I mean, I looked at her degree on the wall and thought that’s nice, but I didn’t really THINK about it.

It wasn’t until I began researching THE RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR, that I realized exactly how much women in the United States have had to work to become accepted as medical doctors.

As of 2012, 34% of all physicians and surgeons were women, according to one study1. Compare that to the Old West, where by the year 1900 there were approximately 7,000 women physicians in the entire U.S.2 Only seven thousand among a population of 76 million (according to the 1900 census).

And they had to scrap and fight to win the right to practice medicine. Several of the accounts I read about shared that men would boycott women doctors, refusing treatment to their own detriment. Many men refused to allow their loved ones, wives or daughters, to seek treatment from a female doctor. Prejudice was rampant and women physicians had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to built their practices.

Also when researching for this book, I discovered the grisly truths of mortality rates for women and childbirth (some sources claimed close to 50% of women died because of unclean conditions or after-birth infections). Many women didn’t have a doctor close enough to attend, and relied on neighbors or their husbands to get them through.

Let me tell you that my husband would be traumatized by going it alone! I am so thankful that the medical profession has come such a long way, and grateful to all the women of the past who fought for their dreams.

READER QUESTION: What is one thing you’ve had to scrap or fight for in your life or career?



About LACY:Lacy Williams grew up on a farm, which is where her love of cowboys was born. In reality, she’s married to a right-brained banker (happily with three kiddos). She gets to express her love of western men by writing historical romance. Her books have finaled in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards (2012 & 2013), the Golden Quill and the Booksellers Best Award.

If you would like to keep up with Lacy and her new releases, please join her newsletter at



The Cowboy’s Reluctant Sweetheart

Two years shy of his medical degree, cowboy Maxwell White is out of money. So, he’s back in Bear Creek, Wy

oming, working part-time for the local physician. Though he is immediately drawn to the doctor’s lovely, whip-smart daughter, she seems to be irritated by Maxwell’s very existence.

Hattie Powell can’t quash her feelings for the town’s new would-be doctor. But that’s exactly why she must keep him at a distance. Hattie is closer than ever to fulfilling her lifelong wish of becoming a doctor. Now, the only thing standing in her way is the man of her dreams.

Book 2 in the Wyoming Legacy series: United by family, destined for love

Book 3, THE WRANGLER’S INCONVENIENT WIFE is out August 1, 2014!


Links, in case you want more info:




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20 thoughts on “Lacy J Williams ~ Women Docs in the Old West”

  1. Hi Lacy, That’s so sad to think about women dieing during child birth and their baby to. I’m glad I had help with my first baby because he got stuck and had to pulled out with the suction cup device. My 2nd was fast 1hour 20min and he was here. My third I was able to get an epidural. Amazing is all I have to say because one moment your lower half of your body feels like it’s being ripped off to whoa hey how’s it going and being to tell the nurse I feel the coming in a calm voice. My fourth the Dr let me have an epi at 2cm ( bless his heart ) then broke my water ( had to have water broke with each one ) I had him 1/2 hour later. By the fourth one the nurses take you seriously when you say baby’s coming out and are so frazzled that they tell you to keep things together while they run and grab the Dr. 🙂
    I’m grateful for lady doctors who never gave up and for Florence Nightengale for figure out the washing of hands to help from spreading germs.

  2. Hello Lacy. Interesting post today. My mother had all 8 children at home starting at age 16. My dad delivered me before the doctor could get there. You see we always lived in the country. A sister had 2 of hers at home. I have a granddaughter who has had 3 of her 5 at home, the last one just 1 now. My easiest was my 3rd one, a Christmas baby. The only one with which my water broke. Right at lunchtime. Had no time for knocking me out. So wasn’t even weak afterwards like the knock out medicine makes you, so was able to get right up. Took my baby girl home and got a picture of her under my Christmas tree. But, there have been babies lost from dry births when the water was broken too soon. My most time of scraping by was in my first years of marriage when at 16 and a 21 yr. old hubby had to move 750 miles away from our folks because of my asthma. He worked at a service station so had very little money, but I learned to figure out a budget and made it with GOD’s help. Never had to ask anyone for help. Just was very careful. No depending on the government like so many now. And, later had to stay alone at night with my baby while my hubby worked shifts on oil rigs. Too many now don’t live within their salary. I always have. But, we were always happy and made it through hard times. I would love to win this book. I lost my cowboy 16 years ago. Love Westerns.( Books and Movies.) Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  3. I had to fight for respect in my career as an RN. Many doctors didn’t appreciate us and a lot of people complained to us. Our hours were awful and even after 4 years of college I received minimal wage.

    Now with the shortage of doctors and nurses, nurses are finally better paid and have more options for the hours they work.

    I have 4 children. Each birth was different. I never would have considered having a child at home. Too many things can go wrong and life is too short to take any chances.

  4. That’s wonderful that your research gave you a deeper appreciation for the female doctors of our day and times past. It’s truly something to be grateful for! Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. Seems like I have always had to scrap to get by. Once was when both my husband and I lost our jobs at the same time. It was over a year before we got back on our feet and husband had a stroke in all of it. He is fine now though and has a job. I am the one that doesn’t have a job now and can’t seem to find one to old I guess. We get by but don’t have a lot of extra.
    I only had one child and it was a difficult birth, after hours of labor,no epi they delivered him by C section. I was 35 when I had him so maybe that had something to do with it.

  6. I am not really a fighter, lol… but I have had to work through my shyness all of my life… at times it holds me back big time… so I guess for me it is more like fighting myself to get things done in life. Thank you so much for sharing your post with us today!

  7. I had to fight for respect in my career. Early on when I graduated college people did not always respect me or the choices I made. However, over the years I have persevere. I am now considered an expert in my field and I have the repect that I deserve.

  8. Welcome back to the Junction, Lacy! I really enjoyed your blog–and I can’t imagine working so hard to gain the knowledge and training, only to be ignored because you don’t wear pants. Thanks for the great info.

  9. Hi Lacy! Welcome back to P&P. We’re so happy to have you come visit. You know, women have been having to scratch and claw for almost everything. It makes me furious. There are those who simply don’t want to see women out of the house and out of the kitchen. They want to lock them into raising kids and cooking and cleaning as if we don’t have a brain or dreams. I loved that show Dr. Quinn because it showed that women could do whatever they set their hearts on.

    Return of the Cowboy Doctor looks like a great story! I’m wishing you much success.

  10. Thanks everyone for your comments! I really loved writing this book, and it did make me respect the women who fought (and furious as well that they had to fight so hard!). I actually have a friend who delivered both of her babies at home with a midwife (within the last several years), but it just scares me to think about doing it–maybe because my husband has been noticeably pale with every birth!! LOL Thanks for everyone entering the giveaway and good luck!

  11. Very interesting post and I, too, admire those that have their there children at home. I on the other hand was very thankful for my doctor when my first was born. He arrived head and elbow and weighing in at 10 pounds 3 ounces. Thank goodness he was also 24 inches long so it could have been worse. Yep I am very thankful for doctors!

  12. Thank you for sharing this interesting post, Lacy. Women certainly had to work hard to be accepted as doctors! I can’t wait to read RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR! Thank you so much for the chance to win a copy.

  13. Lacy, your post was so very interesting. I know Return Of The Cowboy Doctor is a wonderful book. I really enjoy reading a story that involves a doctor. Thank you for the opportunity to be a winner.

  14. Thank you for the information and statistics on women doctors and what the faced trying to practice. RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR sounds like a good read.

    I didn’t have the struggle most women faced in the 1800s and earlier, but did have a few challenges. I was in college during the mid-60’s, right when women were burning bras and demanding equal access to a variety of fields. I was the first female in a very large extended family (65+ cousins) to go to college and the first of all the cousins to complete it. I paid my own way with a tuition scholarship and babysitting (at $.50 an hour). Many times my father threatened to make me pull out – commies on campus, free love, pornographic campus publications (one poem that was so obtuse it was hard to know what he was talking about), and so forth. The biggest problem was as a man of his generation, he felt threatened by a woman getting a better education than he had and doing better than he did in his career. I think historically, that has been the reason for women being held back. Men feel threatened because they know we are capable and can do a job as well as they can, sometimes even better.
    As an example of times changing just since I was in college, I worked on an Environmental Field Day for 6th graders from 5 counties. It ran for 2 days and there were a dozen or so stations manned by Fish and Game, the Forestry Dept, Soils, The Agriculture Dept., and professors from the college. My favorite professor always did the Habitat Station and asked me to do it for him that year (I had just graduated from college the week before). Of the almost 60 people involved in planning and putting on this event, I was the ONLY female. Today, women are a major presence in all these fields.

    • Great responses everyone. I love your comments about overcoming financial difficulties, shyness, and job issues. Fantastic!

  15. I would say one thing I had to really work at to gain respect was when I worked a s Surgical Tech assisting surgeons in the operating room. We had two male techs and all the rest were women but unfortunately the doctors seem to prefer the techs and weren’t afraid to let the women know. In time, I proved myself to the point that the doctors, when they entered the OR, expressed happiness that I was working their room that day.

    I believe there are a lot of professions that men are respected a little more than women but praise God things have improved since the 1800s.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  16. I can’t imagine the death rate back then for childbirth. Boy am I glad for all the doctors (male or female) we have today! Something I struggled with was getting respect for being (and WANTING to be) a stay at home mom and homeschooling. I have had a few women look down on me because of it. Great post!

  17. Loved the post. I have never had a baby but I’m sure others have some rough stories. I have had several times that were harder than others. Being shy I had to work hard to get the respect I deserved. I think part of my problems came from the ability I had for academics. My only problem was math. I cried and worked and studied and still came very close to failing my algebra class. I finally found a tutor who could help me by explaining things to me. By the grace of my algebra teacher I squeaked by. I still have trouble with complicated math.

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