Friday, March 22, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

In honor of Women's History Month, I am resharing a piece about early women doctors in the Pikes Peak Region. 

By the 1870's Colorado was known not only for the gold and silver the miners were pulling out of the mountains, but a destination for the ill to recover. Prior to the arrival of doctors, including medical school graduates Julia E Loomis, Esther B. Holmes, Clara Rowe and Harriett Leonard, the region was a place of businesses, ranching and some farming. Few, if any medical doctors were practicing in the area. Instead most people did their own doctoring.

It was not until the mid 1800's that hygiene and sanitation made their way into the medical field. Prior to and during the War Between the States, many doctors did not clean their instruments or hands between surgeries or seeing patients. After the practice became standard the mortality rate fell, but it wasn't until the 1920's that antibiotics came into use.

In 1871, when Gen. Wm. Palmer and Dr. Wm. Bell developed the towns of Colorado and Manitou Springs, Dr. Edwin Solly moved from England to Manitou Springs in the hope that the air would help cure the tuberculous he'd contracted. After regaining his health, he made it a point to sing the praises of the area far and wide. The region quickly became a mecca for health seekers. Into the mix of these migratory people came a number of doctors. The area around the base of Pikes Peak, the eastern most 14,000 foot peak in the Colorado Rocky Mountain Range, grew from a population of 3,000 in 1873 to about 10,000 by 1879. Of the twenty plus doctors who were in the area by 1880, four were the women mentioned above, Julia E Loomis, Esther B Holmes, Clara Rowe and Harriett Leonard.

At the time, most doctors either paid a practicing physician to study with him, or attended a two year school devoted to teaching doctors. In the early 1800's female students were not allowed. The field opened up after the graduation of Elizabeth Blackwell in 1849 from the Geneva Medical College in New York. She became the first women to received a MD in the United States. Still, some medical colleges did not allow women. Blackwell and others started colleges for women wanting to enter the medical field. In 1881 Colorado began licensing physicians, both men and women, a year after the death of Julia E Loomis.

Photo propery of the author
Julia E Loomis, born 1816, in New Woodstock, New York. After her marriage to John C Loomis, she and J C, as he was known, moved around a great deal. They had two children, a daughter, Gertrude and son, John Lewis. While the family was living in Buchanan county Iowa, her twenty-one year old daughter died after slightly over a year after her marriage. Julia, who may have been working as a healer, went to medical school after Gertrude's death. Julia was in her fifties when she attended the Cleveland Homeopathic College for Women in Cleveland, Ohio and obtained her M. D. By 1876 she was in Colorado Springs and working to set up a clinic for the treatment of consumption (including TB). She passed away in 1880 from pneumonia. Her 'death certificate was signed by doctor E. B. Holmes.

Esther B. Holmes was born in Rhode Island and records show she married in her mid teens. Records indicate she also attended the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College for Women. Esther and her husband George also arrived in Colorado Springs in 1879. Dr. Holmes was early recipient of the Colorado medical license. The state began the licensing process in 1881 and Dr. Holmes received license number 387 in 1882. She continued to practice in Colorado Springs until her death in 1910 at the age of sixty-five. Family stories say she was known as the 'baby' doctor.

The third doctor in the area was Harriet Leonard. In 1879 she was the proprietor of the Mineral Bath House in Manitou Springs. She was a graduate of the Keokuk College for Physicians and Surgeons in the Keokuk, Iowa. Dr. Leonard received her Colorado medical license number 706 in1885. Dr. Leonard may have moved from the area from time to time, but always returned and died here in 1907.

Clarabel Rowe, 1832-1924, and husband F. G. Rowe, an insurance agent, arrived in Colorado Springs around 1880. Dr. Rowe was also a graduate of the Cleveland Homeopathic College for Women. Dr. Rowe maintained a practice in Colorado Springs until her husbands death in 1890. Dr. Rose also received her Colorado medical license in 1882. Shortly after her husbands death she moved to Monterey county, California where she lived until her own death in 1924. She is buried in the El Carmelo Cemetery Pacific Grove Monterey County, California.

Dr. Loomis and Dr. Leonard are buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Dr. Holmes was originally buried there, but was disinterred approximately two years later, and the body sent to Denver. Dr. Loomis is the only early female medical doctor practicing prior to 1900 with an MD on her headstone.
There were other female doctors who came to Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Colorado City after 1880, for the area was one of opportunity for those wanting to cure the sick. The number of women who did have thriving practice in the area seem to belie the fact that women had a difficult time establishing themselves in the medical field in those early years. Colorado may have been one of the exceptions, in part due to the states reputation as a region where one came to restore health.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention "Josie's Dream". The women mentioned in this post were an inspiration for Josie.

Amazon ebook
Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


  1. I always enjoy your posts about the early women doctors of Colorado, Doris. Thanks for this entry!

    1. You are welcome. Sharing their story is pretty darn important to me. I am glad others find the information as interesting as I do. Doris

  2. Very informative post, Doris. Reminds me of the old TV series Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. I loved that program!

    1. These women were the pioneers! Their stories touch my heart and I find I just have to find and share them. I'm glad you found the information useful. Dr. Quinn was a great show. Doris

  3. Clara Rowe was my GGgrandmother. I have photos if you would like them.

    Bonnie Deach


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