The Doctor Wore Petticoats: Women Physicians of the Old West

By Chris Enss | Go to book overview

BETHENIA OWENS-ADAIR
NORTHWEST PHYSICIAN

I am determined to get at least a common education. I now know
that I can support and educate myself and my boy, and I am
resolved to do it; furthermore, I do not intend to do it over a
washtub either.

—Bethenia Owens-Adair, 1874

A loud rap on the door of the hat shop coaxed the diminutive young woman from her work of loading bolts of fabric into a trunk. The scruffy messenger on the other side of the door smiled politely when Bethenia Owens greeted him, and then handed her a letter. The monogram on the envelope showed that the correspondence came from Doctor Palmer, a prominent physician in the northwestern area of the United States.

The messenger waited patiently for Bethenia to break the seal on the envelope and read the enclosed note. “How sad,” she said to no one in particular. “One of our elder citizens passed away… and the six local physicians who treated him at one time or another want to do an autopsy. And as one of the newest doctors in town, I'm invited to attend the operation.” The messenger grinned and nodded, anticipating a negative response.

Bethenia knew the invitation was meant as a joke and was determined to turn the tables on the pranksters. There were very few

-1-

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