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Sunday, May 7, 2017


Post (c) Doris McCraw

Pondering what to write about, I received the edits for one of the papers I wrote on women doctors. While edits aren't necessarily fun, they are important. Once started, well they can be fun. Why? I get to do more research. So here for your monthly reading pleasure are some hunting lessons.

When I find a doctor the main goal is to bring her story to life. Sounds simple, but what if she doesn't want to be found. Ah, now it gets fun and sometimes intense. So, here is a hunting lesson as I search for Eliza A Gillett MD.

Who was she? Well, she arrived in Denver in 1873. There was just a brief advertisement for her in the Denver paper. So, we have a name, now what?

Next a search through newspaper archives to see if her names shows up again or in another area. The search for Eliza A Gillett was a bust. So a try at EA Gillett pulled up a piece about her traveling to see her son. Next a try at Gillett MD showed her moving to Champa Street in Denver. Additional searches failed to add anything new. 

Well, next was an search. There I found where she lived in Denver, Colorado in 1873 and 1874 from the city directory. Deeper searches showed her receiving a license to practice medicine in California in 1876. This resource was also a gold mine, for she graduated from the Eclectic Medical Institute in Ohio. On July 20, 1876 she received her California license. What is even more exciting, her license number is 5. Only four other people received a license before her.

So now what, where was she after she left Denver? Well, ancestry doesn't have all the records. Some haven't come online yet, others may have been destroyed in fires, floods or other event. A more advanced and tedious search show her in Butte, Montana from about 1885 to 1891.  There is a gap of time before she shows up in New Whatcom County, Washington from about 1896 to 1900.

Now a person could stop there, but who was she married to and where was the husband? What was her maiden name? How old was she when she attending the Institute in Ohio? A recent search found her in a city directory in San Francisco in 1877. 

The next steps in the hunt will be contacting various historical societies to see if they have any additional information. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you miss the shot. Still, the hunt is exciting and ultimately rewarding. 

Now to find the stories of the other 50-100 women. It is enough to keep me on the hunt for a long time to come. In the meantime, for those so inclined...Happy Hunting. Hopefully the brief lesson will help out. 

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

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  1. Doris,

    Hunting lessons lead to tumbles down interesting rabbit holes. lol Research is what I love most about writing historical stories.

    Enjoyed your article, and I hope you find more information about Dr. Gillett.

  2. Kaye, you are so correct. Yet, sometimes those rabbit holes lead to the inciting incident that becomes a story. Boy oh boy do I love it when that happens.

    I'm glad you enjoyed my ramblings about Eliza and my search for her. She showed up in a newspaper ad in Denver and then if was off on the hunt. She, like a few others has proved to be a challenge. I think she's testing my resolve. LOL.. Doris

  3. Doris, do you think women doctors purposefully kept low profiles? Just wondering. Your search is fascinating.

    1. Jacquie, some may have, especially in the early days. But you have some like Alida Avery, who was also involved in the women's right to equality, who didn't shy away. So far the research seems to indicate it is on an individual basis. As the end of the century approached, more and more women became involved, thus ending up in more journals, papers and books.

      I'm glad you like my research. I sometimes think people wonder where my mind is at and why to I keep sharing. (It's because I don't want these women to be lost to history. *smile*) Doris

  4. I can see what a complicated ordeal it must be to try to research and track down the elements of a person's life. It can be fun doing research, but it can also be dang frustrating, too. I am probably lucky in that I have never had to research an actual person.
    All the best to you, Doris.

    1. Sarah, it is pretty challenging sometimes, but oh so much fun. Still, I do sometimes wonder why these women chose me to try to tell their stories. LOL.

      Still, your fictional characters and their setting are so real that you would probably be good at this also. Doris

  5. Being genealogist in one of my other lives, this sounds so familiar. Wish you the best of success on those hunting forays. Don't forget the newspaper archives program. Many states have one for no charge including California -- California Digital Newspaper Collection.

    1. I knew there was something about you, for you caught on right away when I talk about these women. Thank you for the encouragement, for sometimes it gets pretty lonely on this journey. I use newspaper archives, but mostly what is available through the library. Thank you for the name of the collection in California. Now to access archived records for physicians. (I've found some collections, but not all the ones I need.) Doris

  6. Doris, as always I was so entertained by your post. I think I love writing historicals because I get to stick my nose into research. Hubby thinks I'm busy upstairs writing and there I am enjoying the trip back in time on the internet. Oh such fun. What a delightful trail she left with so many unanswered questions for you to investigate. Wishing you good luck with further explorations. I have written down her name and the facts you included so when I visit Butte, MT and surroundings areas in Sept.--oh, oh have never been to MT, Wyoming or SD and this will be awesome--I will see if I come across anything and will let you know if I do. Of course by then you may have gained a wealth of info. Thanks again for such an interesting post.

    1. Bev, what your husband doesn't know won't hurt him. LOL.

      Thank you for taking her name down, for you never know when you will find the one piece that is missing. I also confess, I love research just about more than anything. Doris

  7. Hi Doris, I too was searching for Eliza A. Gillettt who graduated from the Cincinnati Eclectic Medical College and stumbled across your post. Eliza's ad appears in the Sept. 19, 1889 edition of the Pioneer Press in Lynden, WA. where she briefly advertised her practice and claims an office in the "Lynden House." Nothing more. She does appear to have moved around!