A Vital Force: Women in American Homeopathy

By Anne Taylor Kirschmann | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Women Physicians,
Lay Healers, and the
Choice of Homeopathy

WOMAN'S RIGHTS LEADER Elizabeth Cady Stanton first heard about homeopathy in the 1830s through the illness of her brother-in-law, Edward Bayard. When Bayard was diagnosed with heart disease and given a bleak prognosis by a regular New York City heart specialist, Stanton's sister Tryphena urged him to consult a homeopath. Family members considered Bayard's recovery under the care of homeopath Augustas P. Biegler remarkable, and the experience so stimulated Bayard's interest in homeopathic medicine that he gave up the practice of law to become a physician. Subsequently, both Stanton and Tryphena became enthusiastic converts to homeopathy. 1

A popular homeopathic lay healer within her community of Seneca Falls, New York, Elizabeth Cady Stanton doctored family, friends, and neighbors armed with a homeopathic domestic medical kit—one of the most important and effective tools in the propagation of homeopathy. Irish families who had settled in the area to build the Erie Canal consulted her on a variety of medical problems. Stanton was proud of her self-reliance, successfully managing her own parturitions, and of nursing her children through malaria, whooping cough, mumps, and broken limbs. 2 After the 1852 birth of her daughter, Stanton wrote to her friend Lucretia Mott describing the “easy” fifteen-minute labor and delivery of her healthy baby and rapid recovery: “Dear me, how much cruel bondage of mind and suffering of body poor woman will escape when she takes the liberty of being her own physician of both body and soul!” Stanton denounced both the Protestant and “medical ministries” for their manipulation of women, arguing that the “genteel” and “civilized” woman was made ill and unnecessarily dependent upon their authority. 3 For Stanton and other reformers, the rejection of patriarchal,

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