American Women


Change Through Knowledge

Frequently someone will write and broadcast the lives of those famous American women we all remember, and are eager to learn more. The same names are highlighted, such as past First Ladies, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, and Eleanor Roosevelt, and more.  Then we go on to the entertainers such as Bette Davis, Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and so on. 

Often we hear about talk show hosts, newscasters, writers, but seldom others prior to the early to mid 1800’s who made a huge difference in society and should be remembered, celebrated for their fight for women. We do celebrate one woman who took it on herself to challenge the government, and give the women of this country the right to vote.  We hear about Amelia Earhart, who was lost somewhere in the Pacific after trying to circle the world in her prop-propelled plane; perhaps because she did not succeed.  And the people in broadcasting will never forget the emotions, frustrations of Mrs. Lindbergh, before and after the death of her son.   

If we travel back in time, very few women are remembered as both a physician and a reformer.  Harriot Kezia Hunt, born in 1805 and passed on in 1875, living seventy years in a time when our life span was shorter – but she had a goal, things to do, and reason to live which I believe as stated in other articles, keeps us young, our mind sharp, and our heart ticking.

Harriot was born in Boston to a family of liberal social and religious views and she was educated privately.  Following her graduation, she opened a school in her parents’ home in 1827.  Before this time and during the start of her new school her sister was fighting a long illness, and Harriot kept a close eye on the number of physicians who came to the house with various therapies.  This alone gave Harriot the need to study to become a doctor, studying in 1833 under the the instructions of an English couple named Mott.    It would be the Motts, who cured her sister of the long illness; no one believed she would survive. 

In 1835 both sisters opened their practice as physicians and faced continued prejudice from the men who studied and opened private practices, from those in research, hospitals and even country doctors.

During the early years of medicine the knowledge of medical procedures and treatments were far and few between, but the young women were excited over the new procedures which, back in her time was known as harsh medications. The young women also concentrated on the study of physiology and practicing good hygiene, bathing, rest, diet, and exercise to maintain health – known today as common sense.

Both women enjoyed working with patients who were suffering with hysterical illness, psychosomatic ailments where orthodox physicians failed. 

Her sister married and Harriot continued practice alone, and began the ladies physiological society where lectures were given and women traveled from all over the country to listen and learn.  Yet, in 1847, Harriot applied to Harvard Medical College and denied.  She continued with the lecture series, this time to the working class in Boston and surrounding areas. 

It would be in 1850 when she attended the nations “Women’s Rights Convention.”  At the convention, she met women like herself, interested in social issues.  She continued to lecture and now, lecturing on women’s rights and the end to slavery. 

Through all of this the male doctors continued to criticize her and down her for her fight for the social issues she believed in.  It would not be until1853 when the Female Medical College of Philadelphia awarded her with an honorary medical degree. 

Harriot’s autobiography – written and published in 1856 – “Glances and Glimpses.”  She continued to practice her love for medicine and lectured regularly on women issues until late in her life.  During the 1868 meeting of the New England Women’s Club, organized by Harriot and Julia Ward Howe as president, the meeting held in her home, in Boston.

Harriot lived what would be a long life during the mid 1800’s, passing away in Boston in 1875.  She would be pleased to see the advances in medicine, medication, treatments, and women in the field of medicine today. 

Women are still fighting for rights, although not as many as when Harriot was alive and fighting for all women.  She believed women should be able to attend Medical College as a man, and believed women should be accepted like any man in any field of their choice.  She was determined to do away with slavery, because of the color of someone’s skin.  Harriot was far ahead of the times, and gave to the country a new outlook for women, and their future.

She would be wondering, why, in 2012 the political parties would even mention a difference between men and women.  Why is it so important that government control what a woman decides to do with her own life, family, birthing and so-forth.  She would feel we have fall’en by the wayside in 2012, if women lost the right to choice – women who suffered while giving birth or women raped and forced to give birth during her time, all the progress would have failed.  She would know nothing about the wonderful facilities for mothers and their children so the woman could keep her job and continue with her education.  Today, I could hear her voice during one of her lectures.

“Ladies and those few gentlemen who dared to venture inside this auditorium, I am here to stand up for women’s rights.  We have the same minds, a brain as good as any man, and we deserve the same treatment as any man – no one should cut the strings of a woman, away from a mans opportunities.  No one should tell any woman when or if she should have a child, it is her body, she would bare the child or not.” (my words, not hers.)   

It is difficult to understand why any political party would concentrate on some old issue, already voted on, completed, and appropriately in place. We need to concentrate on more which needs attention in this country, we are hurting from the inside, and need to take care of the entire family – we must accomplish this task no matter how long it takes, but we cannot ignore the important issues or fall back in time, we must push forward, and work together for each and every person in these United States.

  1. Avatar of Susan Fleet
    Susan Fleet says

    Thanks for a great article, Nancy. It is amazing, isn’t it, that we’ve come so far when certain people among us haven’t quite caught up? I’m a staunch supporter of Women’s Rights and, as a professional musician and music historian, a passionate promoter of talented female musicians on my website.
    I’ve also written a short E-book: Women Who Dared: Trailblazing 20th Century Musicians. It features violinist Maud Powell and trumpeter Edna White, two women born in the 19th century who went on to stardom in the 20th. You mention Amelia Earhart. I do cameos about Amelia, Annie Oaklie and Babe Didrikson in the book.
    My best wishes for your continued success!

    1. Avatar of Nancy Duci Denofio
      Nancy Duci Denofio says

      Susan I thank you for your comments and time to do so. I am also a supporter for women’s rights and their body, is their body – their abilities are equal to a mans and should be paid equally. Remember those days when women were left out of sports, even in those days of freedom in the sixties, women were not participating in sports that were known as a mans’ sport. Even today, to some women the hassle to compete for a place in the world, (regareding politics, etc.) has been a difficult struggle. Thanks again and hope to hear more comments. Loved your explanation, and your book sounds wonderful. Must find it. Sincerely, Nancy

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