As a student of history, especially social history, I question the assumptions and statements constantly. I confess, I learn better that way. It also has led to some interesting discussions. So today, I'm looking as some assumptions we have about women who step out of the norm, specifically women who pursued the medical profession. Yes, there are inherent drawbacks to the study of history, especially when you reduce it to the personal level. Still, there are some valid points to looking at the lives of the 'little' people who make up our background.
The common perception that women had a difficult time breaking into the medical field is both true and false. Now before you start throwing stones, hear me out. Women have always been associated with the healing arts. Even in ancient times there was the 'wise woman' that many went to when ill. After the witch trials in Europe during the 15th-18th century, women and some men were driven underground in fear of their lives. Some can say it was a ploy to bring the church to the forefront in peoples lives. Others would say it was the result of power hungry men to keep themselves in power. Whatever the reason, women were placed in an unenviable position of being placed in a second class status. This seems to have continued on even passed the time of the trials.
|The Cripple Creek/Victor area|
In the nineteenth century, women started to break from societies expectations. Of course there were always exceptions to the rule, but a major breakthrough occurred when Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from a medical college in the United States. She in turn made it possible for other women to follow their choice by starting her own school, along with her sister, who was also a medical school graduate.
From that point forward, through out the end of the century and beyond until the end of WWII, women continued to enter the medical field, both as doctors and nurses. Did they have a difficult time? Probably, but then men also didn't have it easy. In Cripple Creek, Colorado, when Dr. Susan 'Doc Susie' Anderson started her medical practice, there were some 8-10 other women doctors in the mining district along with some 15-20 men who were also trying to start a practice. Considering the population of the district may have been 20,000 at best. Well do the math.
|Headstone for Julia E Loomis, Colorado Springs first woman doctor who arrived in 1876-8|
So, when I hear a blanket statement, that big questions always pops up in my head. "Is it really true?" Sometimes the lie makes a better story, but the digging for the truth can also tell a great tale. This journey I've been taking on the early women doctors in Colorado has led to some great stories, chances to speak on the subject and it is in an upcoming story I'm working on. I will be in the town of Victor, Colorado in March to speak on the these amazing women. I also get the chance to speak in June at the Pikes Peak Library Districts History Symposium on the same topic and that one streams live, world wide. Believe me when I say, asking the question leads to some amazing places.
Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at - http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL
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