A Vital Force: Women in American Homeopathy

By Anne Taylor Kirschmann | Go to book overview

Introduction
Homeopathy as “Other”

AS ONE OF TROY, Ohio's, most prominent citizens, Mary Belle Brown's death on July 13, 1924, was front-page news. Articles recounted Brown's forty-year career as a distinguished New York physician, surgeon, and educator. They described her former residence—a brownstone mansion located off Fifth Avenue, where the names of her neighbors and some patients included Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Huntington, and Rockefeller. After a long and successful career, Brown returned to Troy in 1917, remaining active in the Red Cross during her retirement. Local obituaries noted proudly that “New York papers” also recognized the significant accomplishments of one of Miami County's most respected and successful citizens. 1 However, the otherwise informative, memorials left out the one detail of Brown's career that initially drew me to her. Rather than a member of the “regular” medical profession—to use the terminology of the day—Brown was a homeopath. She graduated from a woman's homeopathic medical school and was active in homeopathic professional organizations and institutions throughout her life. Brown's choice of homeopathy—as a profession and as a system of healing—was what intrigued me most.

Within the last few decades, scholars have provided a more complete picture of the history of women in the medical profession. 2 Recent work on sectarian medicine has revealed the significant role of women in the growth of “unorthodox” medical systems and therapeutics in the nineteenth century, including the hydropathic or water-cure movement, eclectic medicine, osteopathy, and the healing methods of Christian Scientists and Seventh-Day Adventists. 3 Yet, despite the considerable numbers of women who entered the homeopathic profession, nothing within the existing scholarship enabled me

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