“NO WOMEN NEED APPLY.”
These four discouraging words of admonition often greeted female physicians looking for jobs in the frontier-era West. Despite the dire need for medical help, it seemed most trappers, miners, and emigrants would rather suffer and die than be treated by a female doctor. Nevertheless dozens of highly trained women headed West, where they endured hardship and prejudice as they set broken limbs, performed operations, delivered generations of babies–and solidified a place for women in the medical field.
Susan La Flesche, the youngest daughter of an Omaha Indian Chief, felt called to medicine when at the age of twelve she saw a woman die because a government-paid doctor was too busy hunting prairie chickens to help. Destitute divorcee Bethenia Owens Adair traded in laundry work for a successful medical practice. Flora Hayward Stanford, the first female doctor in Deadwood, was known to patch up gunfight victims and to treat the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody and Calamity Jane. With a determination and strength of spirit that resonates even today, these incredible women and seven others profiled in The Doctor Wore Petticoats are sure to inspire.