Post copyright 2014 by Doris McCraw







History, love it or hate it. For most researchers there is a love/hate relationship. You love what you find, but it leads to more. You end up asking more questions than you answer. Still that is what leads to new ideas, new stories or new assumptions. There I said it, assumptions.

Usually when you start a research project you have an idea of what you are looking for and what the outcome will be. For the purpose of this post, I will be starting with the assumption that women had a hard time being accepted as doctors. That is what most of the writing and research has said.

I started there also, but here is where I challenge that assumption. The research I have done shows there are many women doctors in Colorado from the 1870’s to 1900.  There are far more women who went to medical school, received licenses and practiced in the state than one would expect. Add to this the overall state population during that  time  you will see how one could challenge the accepted norm. The research also led to making a connection to the women’s movement of the 1960′ & 70’s.

Census Pop.
1860 34,277
1870 39,864 16.3%
1880 194,327 387.5%
1890 413,249 112.7%
1900 539,700 30.6%

Prior to 1974 when Angie Dickinson starred in “Police Woman”, there had not been a successful television drama with a female lead. Yes, women had television shows but most were not weekly dramas. Now, women consistently star in and have their own television dramas, comedies, even their own networks.

Dickinson as Pepper Anderson, 1975 in Police Woman


If women can become equals in an industry that has been dominated by men within such a short period of time, who says the same may not have occurred in the 1800’s. There were many women who were practicing along side husbands, or singly in hospitals, sanatoriums and private practice. They could not have survived if they were not accepted and had a clientele. They not only survived, a number of them thrived.

Am I correct in my assumption? Perhaps not, but by challenging the norm I have allowed myself to look for other pieces of information. You only find what you are looking for, unless of course you challenge that assumption and see what else you can find.  Time and research will tell. But for now, I’m off on the adventure of a lifetime in research.

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Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

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  1. Great post, Doris! I especially love how you brought in Angie Dickinson (my mom and I LOVED that show!). I love the strength and determination of the female doctors and of women who follow their dreams and hearts — like you! Thanks for all the inspiration, not only in your post but also in your own life. Have a blessed and happy New Year!


    1. Thank you Gayle. It was after I kicked the old assumptions out the door that the research really took off. Then, I realized what I had lived through could possibly apply to what I was working on.

      I also loved the show. It was ground breaking! Doris


  2. I liked Angie Dickinson in that 1970s TV police drama. I also liked her when she was much younger in John Wayne westerner whose movie title escapes me. Look how far we’ve come… now we have Miley Cyrus.


    1. I liked her in that show also, and the movie was “Rio Bravo” with Ricky Nelson and Dean Martin. Yes, we have come quite a ways, but even with our ‘Mileys’ I don’t want to go back. (Smile)



  3. Thought provoking. Hard to let go of assumptions some times, but doing that can always let us think outside the box and expand our creativity I think. And even if assumptions are right, creating stories that would disprove them or challenge them are ways to get story ideas. Enoyed your post.


  4. I love research–and sometimes the research is conflicting. Interpretation of history also changes over time as I have seen in public schools. But I was very happy to learn from your blog that women medical doctors were more prevalent and accepted than we had previously thought. Very nice!
    Have a wonderful and productive New Year, Doris.


    1. Sarah. Thank you for the good wishes. The same to you ten-fold.

      History does seem to change with time and research. I also think that when we challenge assumptions, whether true or not, it leads to new understandings. So glad you have enjoyed the women doctors. Believe it or not, there is so much more that I am just scratching the surface of. I do love it. Doris


  5. I wonder how much the fact of CO being a pioneering, developing area vs the more settled cities of the East Coast has to bear on this. I can picture women being more accepted in a pioneer ethos. I had an older friend who went to med school in the 1950’s and she would have been kicked out if she’d gotten pregnant. Her mother was also a physician and probably went through med school in the 20’s-30’s and she was NOT allowed to be married. They worried about women giving up their career when they had kids and therefore didn’t want them to “take” men’s places away from them. Working wives might have been more accepted on the frontier.


    1. Kate, there are a lot of variables that seem to be in play. The fact that Colorado was considered a ‘health’ destination may have played some in the number of accepted women doctors. I will need to compare the time frames for other ‘health’ regions like Carolina, New Mexico and California. Stay tuned. Doris


  6. Another great post. I do a lot of research so I understand what you are saying. Doris, you’re Doctors have inspired me so much, I wrote a short Western featuring a woman doctor. Thanks for the inspiration and also the TV history lesson. Cher’ley


    1. You are welcome Cher’ley. I’m glad these women have inspired you and look forward to the short Western. It sounds like a fun read. Happy New Year and many blessings to you and everyone. Doris


  7. Assumptions are a funny thing. Even today many assumptions are made based on gender. I am reminded of this every time I receive a check made out to MR Brown. Nice post Thanks for sharing.


    1. S.J. I agree, those assumptions rear their heads at the most interesting times. While sometimes they are funny, they do make you think. Have a wonderful and even more bountiful 2015. Look forward to hearing and seeing more of your wonderful work, for I do love your photos. Doris


  8. We do make assumptions when researching but the trick seems to be to NOT just stop and accept the first things we find. I love the convolutions of finding a piece of information which does that ‘leading on to another’ that you’ve mentioned. I send you happy researching wishes for the coming year.


    1. That is the trick, isn’t it Nancy. For me, it is like finding gold and then tracing it back to the vein in came from. Thank you so much for the kind wishes on my research and the same to you as you bring you country’s early history to life. Doris


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