Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Warrior of the People - Susan La Flesche Picotte

Dr Susan Laflesche Picotte
1865 - 1915


The first American Indian woman to earn a medical degree.
She graduated at the top of her class, and a year early.
She founded the first privately funded hospital located on a reservation.


Susan La Flesche Picotte was first person to receive federal aid for professional education, and the first American Indian woman in the United States to receive a medical degree. In her remarkable career she served more than 1,300 people over 450 square miles, giving financial advice and resolving family disputes as well as providing medical care at all hours of the day and night.

Susan La Flesche was born to Chief Joseph La Flesche (Iron Eyes) and his wife, Mary (One Woman) on the Omaha Reservation in northeastern Nebraska. She attended school there until age 14. Her father encouraged his people to seek education and build relationships with white reform groups. After being home-schooled for several years, Picotte was sent to the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in New Jersey.



Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in New Jersey.

She returned home at age 17 to teach at the Quaker Mission School on the Omaha Reservation for two years.

As a child, she had watched a sick Indian woman die because the local white doctor would not give her care. Picotte later credited this tragedy as her inspiration to train as a physician, so she could provide care for the people she lived with on the reservation.

While working at the Quaker school, La Flesche attended to the health of ethnologist Alice Fletcher, who was working there. 

Alice Fletcher
With Fletcher's urging, she went back East to complete her education and earn a medical degree. She enrolled at Hampton Institute, one of the nation's first and finest schools of higher education for non-white students. 

Hampton Institute
The resident physician there, Martha Waldron, was a graduate of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania (WMCP) and encouraged her to apply to the Woman's Medical College. 

Once again, Alice Fletcher helped La Flesche by securing scholarship funds from the U.S. Office of Indian Affairs and the Connecticut Indian Association, a branch of the Women's National Indian Association. 

After only two years in a three-year program at WMCP, Susan La Flesche graduated in 1889 at the top of her class. She remained in Philadelphia to complete year's internship, and then returned home to provide health care to the Omaha people at the government boarding school, where she was responsible for some twelve hundred people.

Susan La Flesche married Henry Picotte in 1894 and the couple moved to Bancroft, Nebraska, where she set up a private practice, serving both white and non-white patients. Along with her busy practice, Picotte also raised two sons and nursed her husband through a terminal illness. In 1906 she led a delegation to Washington, D.C., to lobby for prohibition of alcohol on the reservation.

In 1913, two years before her death, she saw her life's dream fulfilled when she opened a hospital in the reservation town of Walthill, Nebraska. Today the hospital houses a museum dedicated to the work of Dr. Susan La Flesche Picotte and the history of the Omaha and Winnebago tribes.
Biography Courtesy of National Library of Medicine (NLM)


On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree―becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. She earned her degree thirty-one years before women could vote and thirty-five years before Indians could become citizens in their own country.
By age twenty-six, this fragile but indomitable Indian woman became the doctor to her tribe. Overnight, she acquired 1,244 patients scattered across 1,350 square miles of rolling countryside with few roads. Her patients often were desperately poor and desperately sick―tuberculosis, small pox, measles, influenza―families scattered miles apart, whose last hope was a young woman who spoke their language and knew their customs.
This is the story of an Indian woman who effectively became the chief of an entrenched patriarchal tribe, the story of a woman who crashed through thick walls of ethnic, racial and gender prejudice, then spent the rest of her life using a unique bicultural identity to improve the lot of her people―physically, emotionally, politically, and spiritually. 


A Warrior of the People is the moving biography of Susan La Flesche’s inspirational life, and it will finally shine a light on her numerous accomplishments.


The author will donate all royalties from this book to a college scholarship fund he has established for Native American high school graduates.

OPINION

I am always thrilled to discover a woman of history who broke barriers and rose above insurmountable odds to achieve a lofty goal even in today's terms. Susan La Flesche did just that. Despite all her amazing achievements, little is known about the details of her life. 

Author Joe Starita has conducted intricate research to recreate the path of this wonderous woman's life. He portrayed her honorably, in a way that showed off her fortitude and determined intelligence. She was a woman dedicated to her people and to improving their lives. Teacher, healer, scholar, wife, mother, and physician, she forged through barriers to become the first American Native woman to become a doctor. 

Definitely worth reading - it will inspire and motivate you! 
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