Dr. Sue…Until The Day Dawns ~Tanya Hanson

MarryingMinda Crop to Use With the heroine in my current anthology release, Her Hurry-Up Husband hailing from Omaha, I came across a fascinating real-life woman while researching the city. Dr. Susan Le Flesche Picotte (1865-1915) of the Omaha tribe was the first Native American Indian woman to receive a medical degree.

She was also the first American to receive federal aid for professional education.

Susan was born on June 17, 1865 on the Omaha reservation in northeast Nebraska. Her parents were Chief Joseph “Iron Eyes” Le Flesche, son of a French fur trader, and his wife Mary “One Woman,” the mixed-blood daughter of an Army physician. Although Iron Eyes raised his four daughters Christian, in a frame house on the reservation, he never abandoned native traditions. In fact, his strongest wish and recommendation for Susan was that she become educated in both the white and native cultures. A relative later described her as having one foot in both worlds.

Dr Sue

As a child, Susan witnessed a white doctor refusing to care for a dying Indian woman. After attending school on the reservation and Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in New Jersey, she returned to the reservation to teach at the Quaker Mission School. Here Alice Fletcher, the renowned ethnologist, encouraged Susan to pursue medicine. She enrolled at the elite Hampton Institute in Virginia, the nation’s first school for non-whites.

At Hampton, the resident physician urged Susan to enroll at Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Miss Fletcher helped Susan obtain scholarship funds from the U.S Office of Indian Affairs. Susan graduated at the top of her class in 1889, and after an internship in Philadelphia, she returned to the reservation to provide health care.

Never in vigorous health, due to a degenerative bone condition, Susan nevertheless managed a career that served 1,300 patients and covered 450 square miles. Not merely a healthcare giver, she often gave financial advice and family counseling. She instructed the Omaha peoples on the necessities of cleanliness, good hygiene, and ventilation. In a buggy drawn by her chestnut horse Pie, she made house calls at all hours, even in sub-zero weather. She earned about $500 a year, one-tenth of the salaries of military physicians. Bucked from a horse in 1893, she was too injured to fulfill the invitation to speak at the World’s Fair in Chicago.

Despite early vows to remain single, at age 29 “Dr. Sue” married Henry Picotte, a Sioux from Yankton, South Dakota, in 1894, and raised their two sons Pierre and Caryl in Bancroft Nebraska. Her practice here treated both white and non-white patients.

Henry Picotte battled alcoholism much of his life, inspiring Susan’s ambition to outlaw alcohol on the reservation. She led a delegation to Washington D.C. in 1906 to lobby for such prohibition. Her lifelong dream to open a reservation hospital came true in 1913 in Waithill, Nebraska. The hospital is now a museum dedicated to her work and the history of the Omaha-Winnebago tribes.

When the bone disease ended Dr. Sue’s life at age 50, September 18, 1915, three priests eulogized her as well as an Omaha tribesman reciting in the native language. This showed her successful assimilation into both her worlds..

Her tombstone is inscribed “Until The Day Dawns.”

Another incredible American I never learned about in history classes!

Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride Web FINAL


Excerpt from Her Hurry-up Husband in the just released antho...Rancher Hezekiah is waiting at the train station for his mail order bride, needing a wife for life. Little does he know Omaha debutante Elspeth wants a husband for only one month.

For a quick second, Hezekiah considered jumping on the train and riding it to Utah. The iron bench he sat on was harder than any boulder, colder than a long night in a line shack. What had he done? 

His heart thumped so hard it hurt and all but broke a rib when the woman departing the train came into eyeshot.

A woman wrapped in a black cloak like a bat closing its wings. A woman with hair so white she could have been the snow queen in a fairy tale. And so old she could have mothered Methuselah.

Good Lord, had the telegraph operator in Omaha meant 91, not 21?

The conductor gently loaded her onto the platform, and Hez prayed for death.

“Great granny? Great granny?”

A herd of Hunsakers ran from behind their worn-out wagon, all nine of ’em grabbing the old lady close. Life returned to Hez’s bloodstream.

But his heart stopped again when he heard the conductor call out his name.

“Hezekiah Steller? This lady’s looking for you.”

It was happening for real. Hez, heart stopped, plodded forward like he was that old woman’s man. Until the conductor pulled another female outside and unwrapped the long linen duster passengers wore to keep away the coal dust.

Beneath the grimy coat stepped his bride. Like an angel bursting forth from a bank of clouds. Like a dream coming true. Her beauty astonished him; her tiny waist brought on sweet relief. And Hez realized his life would never be the same. Realized he just might never breath normal again.

“How do, ma’am.” He tried to speak but no sound came forth.





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21 thoughts on “Dr. Sue…Until The Day Dawns ~Tanya Hanson”

  1. Wow, so interesting! I love reading about the early pioneers in medicine and other professions also. Dr. Sue was an amazing woman. Thanks for bringing her to my attention. This just proves that you can do whatever you want if you’re willing to work for it. She certainly did.

  2. Hi Margaret! I love finding out about terrific historic people…I just wish more of them made it into school curriculums. What an amazing woman she was. I think Dr. Sue would make a great side character in a book someday! Thanks for your kind words about the new story, it was a fun one to write.

  3. Hi Linda, I was so impressed with this woman. So many first’s. So much bravery. She died way too young. Thanks for stopping by today, Linda.

    hi Winnie, good to see you. I hope you like the book…four short novellas just in time for busy summer days. Won’t take long LOL. Guess I shoulda done a giveaway today. We just got home from a trip and I fear I’m not back in the writer zone yet, sheesh.

  4. WOW, Tanya! I had never heard of Dr. Sue, either. This is just fascinating. Thanks for a wonderfully informative post–I need to read more about her, now. You’ve really piqued my interest.

    Loved your story in Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride. I was wondering how in the heck you were going to resolve that predicament, but I should have known you’d do it with style! LOL Congratulations on another very interesting story!


  5. It’s amazing the determination and courage it took for her to accomplish her dream. It’s certainly the strength I admire in any person, but especially one where the odds are stacked against her. Great blog, Tanya.

  6. Interesting post! Love the sound of you ladies new book, love mail order bride stories. I will be looking for this one.

  7. Hi Karen, email got hacked/spoofed overnight so today’s been a rip-snorter. Grumble, grumble. Thanks so much for posting today. I agree, Dr.Sue would make such a great heroine! And never heard a word about her before.

  8. Hi Cheryl, ya know, the predicament got ended with one of those ‘aha’ God’s will moments LOL. Sometimes you ask a prayer and it gets answered LOL. Thanks for your faith in me. It means the world. xo

  9. Sarah, I so agree. She had to surmount so many obstacles to begin with, and then a bone disease? Sheesh. It’s sad her husband’s alcoholism caused suffering, too. What amazing strength. Thanks for stopping by today!

  10. hi Quilt Lady, always good to see you here. I am having fun writing shorter things these days. The anthologies are truly enjoyable to write and to read. Each author’s take on the theme is so interesting. Thanks for the comment.

  11. Tanya,

    This is the first I’ve heard of Dr. Sue. What a remarkable woman and life. Thanks so much for sharing.


  12. Hi Kirsten, I am so glad I stumbled upon her. Wow, I wonder if my Nebraska friends ever heard of her. What a terrific woman. Thanks so much for stopping by today!

  13. What a fascinating story about Dr. Sue. We never heard about these people in history class. It would have been helpful to all of us had we known about these women. Wonder how many good women there were working for a better life that we never knew about. These trailblazers should be recognized. I know all women who went where they never thought they would are trailblazers but some stand out more.

  14. Tanya,

    Thank you for giving us Dr. Sue’s story. I love people who prevail against the odds. Until the Day Dawns would be a great book title too. Her Hurry-up Husband sounds like a great beach read.

  15. hi Connie, I hear you. I learn so much these days doing researching or visiting other blogs…stuff I never learned in school. But as a teacher, I always said when I stop learning, I might as well die. So it’s all good. I was so impressed with Dr. Sue, that’s for sure. Thanks for posting!

  16. hi Elaine, thanks kindly. I will give away a copy of the antho next time I post. I just got back from Hawaii and everything happened too fast to get organized from jet lag. I will also have another book out end of the month. So it’ll be a double-whammy then. All the stories are nice and short and sweet!

    I so admire Dr. Sue. And I agree, that’s a great book title! Thanks for visiting with me here at Wildflower Junction!

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