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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Five Women Doctors, Who Knew?

Post (c) by Doris McCraw/writing as Angela Raines
So what does the future hold?
I pondered for quite some time about what I would write about for this first post of 2017. Would I rehash the 'resolution' thing? No, I decided. I'd done that post on another blog already. How about things you don't know about me? Not that either, I tend to be pretty silent on that subject. How about famous quotes? Maybe.

I finally decided that I would share some of my research about a subject I'm passionate about. Other than writing fiction stories that is. So here for my first post of the new year, stories about early doctors in America and Colorado. Here then are five women who's stories captured me.

1. Dr. Harriet Kezia Hunt was a self-taught doctor who practiced in the state of Massachusetts in the 1830s. She is noted as the first woman to apply to Harvard Medical School and was denied admittance to that institution. Dr. Hunt began her studies when her sister Sarah became ill. Out of desperation for her sister’s health, Harriot had the English couple, Elizabeth and Richard Mott, take on her sister’s treatment. As she says in her autobiography ‘the doubt, uncertainty, and inefficacy of medical practice had been our portion; and the best physicians had given up an only sister!’ She continued studying with and working beside the Mott’s until Richard’s death and Elizabeth’s removal to New York. From that point on Harriot continued to build her practice, focusing on women and children. Hunt also was involved in social reform, specifically abolition of slavery and women’s rights, attending the 1850 women’s rights convention in Massachusetts. Dr. Hunt also corresponded with Dr.Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from a medical college in 1849, on at least one occasion. Again from her biography Dr. Hunt states ‘after my experiences with Harvard College, first the professors, then the students who played the same game with different men, it was truly encouraging to hear that Elizabeth Blackwell had graduated at another college, had been to Europe to perfect herself in her profession, and returned to the New York to commence her practice. My soul rejoiced – I poured out my feelings in a letter, and gave her the right hand of fellowship; it was acknowledged in an answer worthy of the writer.’ Later Hunt was awarded an honorary degree from the Female Medical College of Philadelphia in 1853.

Would some of the early women doctors lived in log cabins?
2. Dr. Harriett Leonard practiced medicine in the town of Manitou Springs,Colorado in 1876 according to family history. Dr. Leonard graduated from the Keokuk School of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa. This school was the first co-ed schools in the nation. Originally located in LaPorte, Indiana, in 1849, the school moved to Keokuk and began classes in November 1850. The school was associated with the Medical Department of the State University of Iowa, located in Iowa City, Iowa. As a result of this association, when the University became the first publicly supported university to be co-educational in 1870, the school in Keokuk, by mandate had to accept female students into the medical program.

3. In the 1879 Leadville City Directory, Dr.Mary Helen Barker Bates is the only woman listed among 34 physicians. She had gone to Leadville with her husband George C. Bates, an attorney, and remained there until his health forced the couple to move to Denver around 1881. In Denver Dr. Bates made history as the first woman in Colorado to be appointed to the staff of the Women's and Children's Hospital in 1885. Dr. Bates went on to serve as a member of the Denver Board of Education, as Vice-President of the Colorado Medical Society, and as Colorado's Delegate to the 1904 Pan-American Medical Congress.

4. In 1878, Dr. Julia A. Adams moved from New York to take up residence in Chaffee County at the Cottonwood Hot Springs. Dr. Adams and her husband the Reverend J.A. Adams purchased the Cottonwood Hot Springs near what is now Buena Vista, Colorado. Shortly after this purchase, half interest went to George K. Hartenstein, a Buena Vista attorney and the husband to Dr. Adam's daughter. They invested around $50,000 to build a hotel/resort on the property. All materials were hauled to the site over the mountain from Colorado Springs as no train ran through that area. The Rev. and Dr. Adams, after leaving the region became involved with Mary Baker Eddy and the Christian Science movement. Some records say it was Rev. Adams who coined the phrase ‘Christian Science.

Dr. Adams would have views like this.
5. Dr. Genevieve M Tucker wrote Mother, Baby and Nursery: A Manuel for Mothers, a one hundred sixty plus page book, published by Roberts Brothers, copyright 1896. Her reason for writing the book is best explained in the preface. “the aim of this book is to be a guide to mothers, particularly young and inexperienced ones. It proposes to teach and help a mother understand her babe, to feed it properly, to place it in healthful surroundings, and to watch its growth and development with intelligence, and thus relieve in a measure the undue anxiety and nervous uncertainty of a new mother.” Dr. Tucker was appalled with the rate of infant mortality, and to that end as she says in her introduction, “decrease in infant mortality will be brought about more by strict hygiene and prevention of sickness then by any treatment of disease already begun, no matter how skillfully applied.” She practiced in Pueblo, Colorado. Around 1898 she was elected president of the Colorado Homeopathic Medical Society. The feeling was that Dr. Tucker could do much to unite the sometimes divided forces within the society and promote the cause of homeopathy. 

So there you have it. Five stories from the many women who ventured into the field normally held by men. Perhaps I will add more stories of these amazing women in the future. For now, it's back to research for a book on women doctors in Colorado prior to 1900, and one on the doctors who reside in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Wishing everyone a passionate year of storytelling and the fulfillment of many dreams in 2017 and beyond.

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted at –  Check out her other work and like her Amazon author page:


  1. Thanks for telling us about these amazing women, Doris. Happy New Year to you!

    1. You are welcome Jacquie.For people who know me, I am passionate about their stories.

      May the New Year bring you more of what you dream of. Doris

  2. I love your histories about early women doctors. Keep up the good research. Great post!

    1. Thank you so much. I am passionate about these women, and just have to share. *Smile* Doris

  3. Doris,

    Your articles about women doctors are so informative. I have a sketchy plot for a novel that includes a female doctor. You've inspired me in that regard.

    I look forward to more of your research.

    Happy New Year and Happy Writing.

  4. Kaye, I am glad I inspired you. If you ever have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me. I'm not an expert, but I do have a passion for for this subject.

    Same to you and your writing.

  5. It's so heartening to learn of the accomplishments of these determined women. It's hard to imagine a female doctor of medicine not having the right to vote.
    I liked your decision to move away from the more common blog subjects following New Year's. It's very tempting. I know, because I am battling the same dilemma in regards to blog subjects.
    All the best to you, Doris, in the coming year.

    1. Sarah, thank you. I like you battled with what to write, and then realized I have all this wonderful information ( and still finding more) that I needed to share.

      A number of these women became involved with the right to vote movement, and when you think about it, it makes sense. They were smart, determined and used to doing what a lot of other women didn't.

      Wishing you a very creative 2017 and beyond. Doris