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Sunday, February 5, 2017


Post (c) Doris McCraw

For this First Sunday post, I will continue to share information about early women doctors, focusing on Colorado. Dr. Alida C. Avery was one of the first medical school graduates to arrive in Colorado. As you can see, she left her mark.

Alida Avery

Dr. Alida C. Avery was not only a women doctor of formidable skills, she played a major part in the struggle for women’s rightsin the West. Her story, while unique, also is universal. Women, by the nature of following their passion to study medicine and become doctors, were in their own way promoting the equality of women.

Dr. Avery was born June 11, 1933 in Shelburne, New York. Her parents, Deacon William Avery and Hannah Dixon Avery were abolitionist leaders. She began teaching school at the age of 16. She began her formal study of medicine in 1857. She attended the Philadelphia Women’s Medical College for one year, 1858. She concluded her study at New England Female Medical College in Boston, graduating in 1862.

In 1865 she joined the faculty of Vassar, which was founded in 1861 as the first degree-granting institution of higher education for women in the United States. She remained at Vassar until1874, when she resigned to take a job as Superintendent of Hygiene for the state of Colorado, in addition to opening a private practice in Denver, Colorado. Her income was reported to have been $10,000 a year.

Prior to her arrival in Colorado, there had been attempts at equality in the territory. In 1868, territorial Governor Evans and Mr. Richards attempted to secure women’s suffrage in the territorial legislature but failed. Again in 1870 Governor McCook addressed the legislature in which he stated:

"our higher civilization has recognized women’s equality with man in all other respects save one –  suffrage. It has been said that no great reform was ever made without passing through three stages – ridicule, argument and adoption. It rests with you to say whether Colorado will accept this reform in its first stage, as her sister’s territory of Wyoming has done, or the last; whether she will be a leader in the movement or a follower; for the logic of a progressive civilization leads to the inevitable results of a universal suffrage.”

Despite attempts at suffrage, the movement did not gain much momentum until 1876. It was then the subject of suffrage began in earnest as Colorado moved toward statehood. On January 10, 1876 a convention was held at the Unity Church in Denver, with attendees coming from a number of towns and regions throughout the state. As a result of the convention the Territorial Woman’s Suffrage Association of Colorado was formed. Its first president was Dr. Alida Avery. The honorary Vice-presidents were J.E. Washburn, Willard Teller, and Greeley, Colorado founder Nathan C. Meeker.

Dr. Avery traveled, spoke and attended national conventions and meetings. She continued her involvement with the movement after her retirement from medicine in 1887. She moved to San Jose, California and in 1901 to San Francisco. After surviving the 1906 earthquake she returned to San Jose where she passed away on September 22, 1908 at the age of seventy-five.

Many were the women who campaigned for suffrage until the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. In later years the campaign became more militant, with marches on Washington with women spending time in jails and prison. In the book “Jailed for Freedom” by Doris Stevens, published in 1920, is a list of the women who were jailed. In that list were Women Doctors who continued the efforts of women like Dr. Alida Avery.

For those who would like to read more, here are some links to additional information:

Doris McCraw, pen name-Angela Raines, is an author, speaker, historian who specializes in Colorado and Women's History.

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Click Here 
Photos and Poetry:  Click Here 
Like Angela Raines on Facebook: Click Here


  1. Doris,
    Great article. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You are welcome Kristy. There is so much to her story, I just couldn't put it all in. Maybe a biography in the making in the future? Doris

  2. Maybe it's just me, but it seems the women who went west in those early days were of a certain character. They were brave, innovative, and some were downright stubborn--in a good way. It took persistence, and still does, to get anything done.
    Marvelous post, Doris.

    1. Thank you Sarah. I agree with your conclusion. The more I learn about these women, the more I want to know. If I had time, I'd research all the 'male' professions that women took up as careers, but time...

      No matter who the woman was, she faced a whole new world when she headed West. Not only did women survive, they thrived in many cases. Doris

  3. Great post, Doris. I love your articles on women doctors. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thank you Robyn. These women have grabbed me and won't let go. The funny thing is, I don't mind. The things they did just amaze me. Doris

  4. Doris, as always this is another great post. I so enjoyed it, esp. since I have a female doctor historical I wrote years ago, set on the shelf, but hope to retrieve and rebirth it in the near future. The women back then were simply amazing. Strength, fortitude and such determined purpose in all walks of life that all women should stand tall and salute them for paving the way for us, esp. those out western states. I live not 20 miles from Seneca Falls, NY where I get lost in the halls of the National Women's Hall of Fame or in the homes of Elizabeth Cady or Susan B. Anthony's. Do you ever wonder if we could have been that dedicated and stalwart back then? I hope most of us would have. By the way just finished your The GIFT OF FORGIVENESS and absolutely loved it. I couldn't put it down. Wonderful, so thank you.

  5. Bev, I would love to get lost in those halls of history.

    Like you, I wonder would the 'modern' woman be able to do what these women did back then. My instincts are, we would. It is having the passion for what you are trying to accomplish.

    I am so glad you enjoyed "Gift". Maybe I can do this thing called storytelling. Your words give me hope. Doris

  6. Doris,

    Thank you for another wonderful article about Colorado's women doctors. Dr. Alida Avery's life as a doctor is amazing enough then you add suffrage into the mix and she was certainly a pioneer in every sense of the word.

    I have to confess that while I read this article, I started humming the Sister Suffragette song from Mary Poppins. "We're clearly soldiers in petticoats, and dauntless crusaders for women's votes. Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're rather stupid...") :-)

    1. Kaye, I agree with your thoughts on Dr Avery. In so many ways she seems to typify the women I have been researching. I just admire them and their determination. I also started singing the song! Doris

  7. Pioneer women were fierce. I can only imagine how many times she wanted to bang her head against the wall (or bang someone else's) but she kept at it. We owe these women so much.

    1. You are so correct, Keena. These women, by their very actions, were a force to be reckoned with. One story about Alida told by a former student seems to be indicative of who she was. It seemed a friend of Alida's had the sniffles and wanted Alida to see her. The response "My office hours are..."

      We do owe so much to those who took on the effort to make our lives so much more. Doris