FEMILIST FRIDAY: SUSAN LA FLESCHE PICOTTE
- •The first Native American woman to become a doctor, and an important figure in protecting Native American people from the US government.
- •1865 - Born on the Omaha reservation. Her father was the chief of the Omaha tribe.Due to increasing barriers faced by native peoples her father wanted his children educated in white schools and with a corresponding upbringing. Because of this, Susan attended boarding schools on the east coast leading up to college.
- •1886 - Graduated from the Hampton Institute in VA and decided to pursue medical school. With federal aid from the Office of Indian Affairs, Susan enrolled in the Women's College of Pennsylvania, one of the few med schools that allowed women at the time.Susan is noted as the first person to use federal aid for a professional degree.
- •To emphasize the importance of her accomplishment of even attending med school in the Victorian era: Popular journals at the time published articles that argued women faced intellectual challenges because their brains were smaller, and that women should not attend college because the stress would harm their reproductive organs.A Harvard doctor wrote the latter.
- •1889 - Susan graduated from medical school and completed her medical internship, officially becoming the first female Native American doctor in the country.
- •After graduation Susan knew she wanted to return to the reservation to practice medicine there. At a young age she witnessed the death of a sick Omaha woman because the doctor never came after being summoned multiple times.Susan noted that the woman "was only an Indian and it did not matter" to the white doctor.
- •She was initially rejected as the reservation's doctor, so she took a position at the reservation's government-run boarding school where she emphasized the importance of cleanliness and ventilation to prevent the spread of disease.She also spoke out against the white whiskey sellers who took advantage of the tribe members, continuing her father's work as a Prohibitionist.
- •Susan soon gained the position as the reservation's doctor, but because she had lived away from the reservation for so long, many hesitated to trust her.
- •However, she quickly won people over with her care. She spent her own money when supplies ran low, and covered 1350 square miles on the reservation to see patients at their homes. White people from the surrounding area even came to her, trusting her more than other doctors.She would return to her home at night to see patients lined up at her door, and she never turned anyone away.
- •1894 - Married Henry Picot of the Sioux tribe and they moved to Bancroft, Nebraska.In Bancroft Susan set up a private practice, and had two children. She continued working full time, another major deviance from Victorian norms.
- •1905 - Henry died as a result of tuberculosis and a battle with alcohol addiction.
- •1906 - Due to her husband's death and her frustration with alcohol dependencies, she lead a delegation to Washington DC to lobby for the prohibition of alcohol on Indian land.She helped pass legislation that banned alcohol, and advocated for Native people's citizenship and land ownership.
- •1913 - Left Bancroft to return home with her children, and opened a hospital on the Omaha reservation, in Waltill, NE.Her hospital was the first hospital on reservation land to not receive support from the US government.
- •1915 - Died at age 50.Today, Susan's hospital serves as a drug and abuse treatment center.
- •SOURCES:biography.com, University of Nebraska Lincoln "Native Daughters" website, history.com
- •General request: I'm hoping to not be entirely US-centric with this, but I have only come up with a few women from other countries in my googling. If you know of any women from outside the US that should be highlighted, please let me know!