The Doctor Wore Petticoats: Women Physicians of the Old West

By Chris Enss | Go to book overview

SUSAN LA FLESCHE PICOTTE
FIRST FEMALE NATIVE-AMERICAN PHYSICIAN

I have lived right with them for over twenty years practicing
medicine, attending the sick, helping them with all their financial
and domestic business and anything that concerned their personal
family life.

—Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte, 1914

Twelve-year-old Susan La Flesche wiped the perspiration off the brow of an elderly Omaha Indian woman stretched out on a cot before her. The woman's sad eyes found Susan's, and she lifted her feeble hand out for the girl to take. Susan helped the frail patient raise her head and take a sip of broth. Almost as if the effort had been overwhelming to her delicate frame, the ailing Native American fainted. Susan gently laid the woman's head onto a pillow and dabbed her warm cheeks with a cool cloth.

The light from a gigantic moon streamed through the open flap of the buckskin tepee situated on the Omaha reservation near Macy, Nebraska. Susan left the sick woman for a moment to peer out into the night. She lingered a bit and listened to the sounds of the evening. With the exception of the cries of the coyotes in the far distance, all was quiet. It was late, and the elderly woman's breathing was labored. A messenger had been sent out four times to get help, but the physician, hired by the government to care for

-19-

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