Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Post copyright by Doris McCraw writing as Angela Raines

What to share with everyone is a question I have pondered for a bit. What part of history should I share? Although I write historical romance, another part of my life is spent researching and telling the stories of early Colorado women doctors. In my novella, "Home For His Heart" there is no town doctor, but there is a midwife who is the closest thing they have. Much has been written about how difficult it was for women in the medical profession in those early days. That does not always seem the case. In Colorado women doctors were an important part of the growth of that state. Here then is a bit about four of those early pioneers.

The first documented woman physician in Colorado appears to be Alida C. Avery. Arriving in 1874, two years before statehood, she set up practice at 339 Twentieth Street, in Denver. Her office hours were 10-12 and 3-5. Prior to arriving in Denver, she was a member of the faculty of Vassar College as a professor and resident physician. In the Rocky Mountain News article, they stated " during her tenure not a single death occurred among her pupils".
1873 photo of Alida Avery. Image: Vassar College

In the early days of her career, Mary Helen Barker Bates, practiced in Salt Lake City, Utah. There are some family stories that state she was Brigham Young's physician. It was in Salt Lake City she met her husband, attorney George Bates. They were married in 1876 and by 1878 the couple moved to the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. Dr. Bates was active in the medical community there, but by 1881 the couple moved to Denver for George's health. In Denver, Dr. Bates remained activin the health community. She eventually introduced the Colorado Law for the Examination and Care of Public School Children, that went into effect in 1910.
Leadville, Colorado, mining district, subject of an early mining-geology study, 1879.

Harriet Leonard became the proprietor of one of the spas in Manitou Springs, Colorado. According to family sources she arrived in Colorado in 1876. She was a graduate of the Keokuk School of Physicians and Surgeons, an early coed school, located in Keokuk, Iowa. Dr. Leonard was always learning and working to find ways to help the sick. When she arrived in Colorado, the area was growing as a region for health seekers, especially those suffering from lung ailments.
Picture 048
Headstone for Hariet Leonard

Julia E. Loomis was the first woman physician in Colorado Springs. Although some sources say she arrived in 1876 also, the first documentation is in 1878. Dr. Loomis attending the Cleveland Womens  Homeopathic College, in Cleveland, Ohio. Although she may have practiced the healing arts prior to attending college, she graduated in 1871 with her MD. Dr. Loomis was in her fifties at the time.
Headstone for Julia E Loomis

So there you have some early women pioneers in the area of medicine. Women were always in the healing field, but after Elizabeth Blackwell graduated medical school in 1849 the floodgates opened and women were able to practice the healing arts with the MD following their names.

Product Details
"NEVER HAD A CHANCE" , second in the Agate Gulch stories, in the Prairie Rose Publications "A COWBOY CELEBRATION" anthology

Product Details
HOME FOR HIS HEART the first in the Agate Gulch stories.

Author Page:

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris Gardner-McCraw, Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History. She also posts a photo and haiku five days a week at:


  1. Fascinating! I really enjoyed reading about these medical women.

    1. Thank you. These women keep calling me back to share their stories. My goal, do them justice. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

  2. Interesting post -- kept reminding of "Dr. Quinn -- Medicine Woman" because I think that series was supposed to be set in Colorado Springs. Medicine sure has come a long way (in some respects) since the 1800s. I'm glad to be living now! But thank goodness for these determined women and their dreams.

    1. Kathryn, yes the show was to have taken place in Colorado Springs. But as with most hollywood stories, not based on fact. Dr. Anderson (Doc Susie) actually started practicing medicine in Cripple Creek, CO. in 1897 but there were about 7-10 other women doctors there at the time. She eventually ended up in Frasier CO. in 1907 and was the only doctor there. There is a book called "Doc Susie" which tells most of the story.

      Thank you for stopping by. I love talking about these amazing early pioneer women doctors. I also agree, I'm glad to be living now. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

  3. Sorry to be so late reading this, Doris/Angela. I love your histories on women doctors. As an FYI on your remarks about Dr. Mary Helen Barker Bates being from SLC, in the early days of the LDS church in Utah, Brigham Young believed that women and children would be better served by women doctors. He encouraged several women to travel back east to be trained so they could return and practice in Utah. We had a lesson on prominent Utah women physicians in one of our Daughters of Utah Pioneers lessons several years ago. That lesson always has stuck with me.

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

    1. Robyn, I had heard that women were encouraged, but did not realize it was Brigham Young himself who promoted that concept. Thank you for the added informations.

      I confess these women have taken over my research life. Even when I move away from them, they find a way to drag me back. (Sigh-not that I mind) Doris/Abngela