Bagley Presents The Woman’s Face of Medicine in Frontier Utah

Jeanne Le Ber
Emeritus Faculty

Please join the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library on Wednesday, September 26, 2012 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for Will Bagley presenting The Woman’s Face of Medicine in Frontier Utah. This event is located in the George and Dolores Eccles Institute of Human Genetics Auditorium on the first floor. Refreshments will be served.

As old barriers crumble, the face of modern medicine is rapidly changing, but a look back at Utah’s colorful history reveals some surprising precedents. “A doctor if He had good sens[e] would not wish to visit women in child birth,” Brigham Young said in his medical lecture to the Board of Health at Great Salt Lake City in December 1851. “And if a woman had good sense she would not wish a man to doctor them on such an occasion.”

The territory’s early Mormon settlers were dedicated naturopaths of the Thompsonian persuasion, and as President Young’s words indicate, women dominated several fields of medical science, notably pediatrics. Frontier midwife Patty Bartlett Sessions recorded 3,977 births, with only “two difficult cases,” and performed her last delivery at the age of 85. During her career, Dr. Ellis Shipp, an 1878 graduate of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, delivered more than 5,000 babies at the Deseret Hospital.

Historian Will Bagley, whose great-great-grandparents lost seven children in three weeks to whooping cough, will take a fresh look at Utah’s surprising medical history and some of the courageous and colorful women who dealt courageously with diphtheria epidemics of 1864, 1872, 1891, 1900, and 1947.