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Sunday, March 5, 2017


Post (c) Doris McCraw

Cheyenne Mounain,just west of Pikes Pike Colorado at sunrise
Last months post was about Dr. Alida Avery, one of Colorado's early female physicians, who had her practice in Denver, Colorado. But what of the women in the Pikes Peak region, which included Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Colorado City. Here is the story of four of the very early women who came to the Pikes Peak region to practice their profession.

As previously noted there were women physicians who moved to and made Colorado their home during the 1870s. In Colorado Springs, a new town which began in 1871, was home to Dr. Julia E. Loomis. Family stories have her living there as early as 1876. Documents, such as ads in the local Gazette newspaper, show she definitely was living there by 1878. Dr. Loomis was an 1870 graduate of the Cleveland Women’s Homeopathic College. This institution was one of the women medical colleges that started up to offer education to women who wanted to pursue medicine. This and other women medical colleges is a result of Dr. Elizabeth Blackwood, her sister, Dr. Emily Blackwell, and Dr. Maria E. Zackrzewka who began a hospital in 1856-1857 in New York, and offered hands-on education and experience to women in a practical setting Although Dr. Loomis may have been practicing medicine prior to her two years at Cleveland’s college, that she went to school after the death of her only daughter at the age of 52, shows a desire to be more, to also be one of the women who could and would practice medicine as the men did.

Headstone for Dr. Julia E. Loomis- Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, CO

Manitou Springs, a near neighbor and also new town, had Dr. Harriet Leonard. Like Dr. Loomis, family histories place her in the region in 1876. 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 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.

Headstone for Dr. Harriet Leonard, Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, CO
These two women were shortly joined by Dr. Esther B, Holmes, 1878 and Dr. Clarabel Rowe, 1879. Dr. Holmes was born in 1844 in Rhode Island. Dr. Rowe around 1833 in Massachusetts. Dr. Rowe received her license in 1881 and Dr. Holmes 1882, shortly after Colorado started its licensing process. Dr. Rowe was also active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, giving talks and traveling on behalf of the organization. Dr. Holmes, who remained in Colorado Springs, was fondly known as 'the baby doctor'. Were these women and Dr. Loomis friends? Quite possibly. The death card for Dr. Loomis was signed by E. B. Holmes. In 1888 Dr. Rowe and Dr. Holmes traveled together on a trip through Southern California.

While Dr. Loomis was building her practice and taking care of her extended family, Dr. Leonard was working as the proprietor at the Manitou Spa. As far as records of any other female physician preceeding Dr. Loomis or Dr. Leonard in the Pikes Peak region, none have been found. Of the four women who were pioneers in the Pikes Peak region, only Dr. Rowe moved away. After the death of her husband, Dr. Rowe, moved to California. 

Doris McCraw, pen name Angela Raines is an Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. It never ceases to impress me how women who ventured west in those early pioneer days possessed such spirit and courage. I don't think I could have done what they did. I wonder if they even knew how brave or amazing they were. One thing is for certain, not many would not have risked what they did. I felt badly for Dr. Loomis lost her only daughter. What a shame.
    A wonderful blog, Doris.

  2. Thank you Sarah. I would say, other than my fiction, my research into the lives of these women is primary with me. Like you, I marvel at their tenacity to follow their dreams. I guess they inspire me to follow mine. Doris

    As Julia said in her words to the graduating class, "As I go out into this new field of action, I can take with me this roll [her diploma] in my hand, and as I come in contact with opposition can use it as a shield of defense."

  3. Doris,

    From reading all of your fine articles about the women doctors who came to Colorado, I'm struck with the questions of...
    What drove them to come west?
    Why did they come to Colorado as opposed to some other destination?
    Was this area of Colorado more accepting of women doctors than other places?
    Was it the scenery or climate?
    Maybe there were just in the right place at the right time for women doctors to be accepted by the fledgling communities.

    So many questions and such an interesting and intriguing topic.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Kaye, I've the same questions. Although I have to definitive proof, I do believe it was easier out West for women doctors, especially in the 'health' meccas of Colorado, New Mexico and California. Sarah Hackett Stevenson from Illinois was the first women admitted to the AMA in 1876, with no controversy. You can look her up on Wikipedia, and for more early female first in the AMA: While not a complete list, you begin to understand, while tough, once the doors were opened, it wasn't as tough as we may have been led to believe. (Not that it was easy, believe me) Doris