Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Real Doctors in 1878 Colorado

Post (c) Doris McCraw 
writing as Angela Raines

In the novel "Josie's Dream", part of the Grandma's Wedding Quilts Series, I mention Alida Avery and Harriett Leonard. Both were actual doctors, who along with several other women who were medical school graduates, practiced medicine in Colorado prior to 1880.

The Keokuk School of Physicians and Surgeons is also an actual medical school and was the school Harriett Leonard attended. 

Born in New York in 1829 and died in Colorado in 1907 at the age of 79 (?). She was married to John  Leonard and they had seven children, with four surviving to adulthood according to the 1900 census. John died in 1895/6.

Harriet Leonard was the first woman doctor in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Her advertisement appears as early as July of 1878. Her ad read: Mrs. H. A. Leonard M.D. ELECTRICIAN. Special attention given to nervous and chronic diseases. Office in the Mineral Bath House. Manitou. This form of treatment was not that unusual in the 1870’s. You can read more at:
Dr. Leonard later became the proprietor of the Bath house, a rather unusual position for a women. None the less, Harriet was constantly working and learning. There is some indication she may have gone to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, (originally known as Hot Springs) for a time, but no definite proof has been found at this point. It would not be out the question as the town has numerous hot springs. The springs in Manitou are mineral, and not hot springs. It would make sense given her history.
An additional difference between Dr. Leonard and some of the other female physicians, she was an allopath. Many of the other doctors were homoepaths. Dr. Leonard graduated from the Keokuk College for Physicians and Surgeons.
Here is an excerpt from "Josie's Dream"
Will didn’t know who he was, where he came from, despite being told his name was Will Murphy. All he knew was this doctor, a woman at that, was an irritant. Since the Haneys, father and son, had brought him in, she had been ordering him about. He was tired of lying in bed. His head felt better, and the cuts and scrapes were healing nicely. It was time to get up and get going. Blasted woman, doctor or not, he figured he knew what was best for himself.
He was going to get up out of the bed. Now that his decision was made, Will swung his legs out from under the covers, only to gasp as the doctor walked in.
Will quickly covered himself with the sheet, for no woman should see a man in his altogether.
What do you think you’re doing?” The soft voice asked. “And don’t be embarrassed, after all I am a doctor. You have nothing I’ve not seen before,” the voice continued, with a hint of laughter.
That soft voice, so enticing, almost had Will returning to his bed. The doctor’s green eyes were daring him to continue.
Very well, Will thought, I’ll show you. Will continued his journey from the bed. Dropping the sheet, Will moved until his feet touched the floor. With the aid of his arms, Will slowly raised his body up to his feet, precariously balancing on legs that were more feeble that he’d hoped.
Glancing at the doctor, sweat trickling down his nose and cheeks, he braced himself for a scolding, while praying that he could remain upright.
The scolding never came. Instead the doctor, Josie he thought they called her, stood watching him, hands on hips, compressed lips, but with the hint of a smile and admiration in her eyes.

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

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

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  1. Interesting post! Everyone assumes women were so cloistered, it's good to hear about those that broke the mold.

  2. Kari, thank you, and believe it or not, there were more than most people realize. Doris