|Sketch by Robert Higgins|
There's no harm in telling you that in the third book of the Orphans and Inmates series (as yet untitled) Martha, the youngest of the Sloane sisters, becomes a doctor. As I researched the history of female physicians in Buffalo, New York, during the nineteenth century, I found that, once again, I needed to stretch the truth a bit to tell Martha's story.
My third novel takes place in Buffalo during the cholera pandemic of 1849. However, it was not until 1874 that Mary Blair Moody, the first female student, was accepted to the Medical Department at the University of Buffalo. There was nothing in the charter that denied female students admission and so there were no special petitions to allow her to attend. Dr. Moody practiced in Buffalo for several years before moving to Connecticut.
Interestingly UB was among the first medical schools to accept women. Niagara University did not accept women into their medical school until 1892. Between 1874 and 1896 fifty-six women received medical degrees from the University of Buffalo. Among them was Dr. Jane Wall Carroll. Dr. Carroll graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1891 at the age of 43. Among her 10 children, daughter Evangeline Carroll received her medical degree from the same institution in 1893.
Female physicians also found their way into the asylums of Buffalo. Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Harriett A. Townsend, President of the Women's Union, a law was passed in April of 1890 allowing female physicians to practice at State hospitals for the insane. The first physician appointed under this law was Dr. Eleanor McAllister, a graduate of Syracuse University. Dr. McAllister was placed on the medical staff of the Buffalo State Hospital. Maude Josephine Frye, M.D., another graduate of the University of Buffalo, served for a time in the Infant's Ward at the Erie County Hospital, which was a part of the Erie County Poorhouse.
So, there are some extraordinary role models to keep in mind as the story of Martha Sloane unravels. I have no doubt she will be able to hold her own along side these pioneering women of medicine. Stay tuned...