Saturday, February 22, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

I've been focusing on women who banded together to improve the status of all women in the West and the Country. The year 2020 is the centennial of women receiving the right to vote, but the journey began long before that. For this post, I'll be focusing on Colorado. I hope you enjoy this short exploration.

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Dr. Alida Avery
Women Doctors were one of the first groups of women in Colorado who not only strove to help the sick but were also involved with the suffrage movement along with the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Even while still a territory, there were discussions about women's suffrage. Dr. Alida Avery left her position as a physician and professor at Vassar College to move to Colorado in 1874. One here, she was involved in the Colorado and National suffrage movement, traveling and speaking on behalf of women. She also was an early proponent of women being a part of the medical association, requesting membership within two years of her arrival.

On a side note, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was a fictional show that may have been based in part on the life of Dr. Susan Anderson and her work in Fraser, Colorado after she moved there in 1907 over thirty years after the first female doctor, who graduated from a medical school, arrived in Colorado.

By 1881, Colorado was licensing physicians, and women were licensed the same as men if they met the state's qualifications. A look at those who were licensed included a number of women.

It was no just women who were pushing for suffrage. Men were also involved. In 1876 the head of the Colorado Medical Society made waves when he advocated that women be included not only in organizations, but they should attend medical schools on an equal basis.

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1893 Referendum - Colorado
By the early 1890s, the women regrouped to finish the push for suffrage in Colorado. One of those who helped in that final effort was Dr. Mary Helen Barker Bates. She arrived in Colorado in 1879-80 with her husband and settled in Leadville where she was the lone female doctor for a brief while. Moving to Denver because of her husband's ill health, Dr. Bates was active not only on behalf of children in the schools, but also working for the right for women to vote and be a part of the voice making policy for all. The effort paid off. In 1893 the state of Colorado was the first state to make women's suffrage a part of the constitution.

I confess to being in awe of these early women and their commitment to making life better for not only themselves but for others. These histories, while not always explicit in my fiction writing, play a big part in the development of my female characters. What are your 'role models' for your characters? I'd love to know.

I confess the first novel I wrote had a female doctor as the heroine. She was fun to write and has a special place in my heart. Below is an excerpt from that book:

Will didn’t know who he was, where he came from, despite being told his name was Will Murphy. All he knew was this doctor, a woman at that, was an irritant. Since the Haneys, father and son, had brought him in, she had been ordering him about. He was tired of lying in bed. His head felt better, and the cuts and scrapes were healing nicely. It was time to get up and get going. Blasted woman, doctor or not, he figured he knew what was best for himself.
He was going to get up out of the bed. Now that his decision was made, Will swung his legs out from under the covers, only to gasp as the doctor walked in.
Will quickly covered himself with the sheet, for no woman should see a man in his altogether.
What do you think you’re doing?” The soft voice asked. “And don’t be embarrassed, after all, I am a doctor. You have nothing I’ve not seen before,” the voice continued, with a hint of laughter.
That soft voice, so enticing, almost had Will returning to his bed. The doctor’s green eyes were daring him to continue.
Very well, Will thought, I’ll show you. Will continued his journey from the bed. Dropping the sheet, Will moved until his feet touched the floor. With the aid of his arms, Will slowly raised his body up to his feet, precariously balancing on legs that were more feeble than he’d hoped.
Glancing at the doctor, sweat trickling down his nose and cheeks, he braced himself for a scolding, while praying that he could remain upright.
The scolding never came. Instead the doctor, Josie he thought they called her, stood watching him, hands on hips, compressed lips, but with the hint of a smile and admiration in her eyes.
If he believed in love, Will thought, he would fall head over heels right now. That fact that he was wavering probably would have made it a fact, if the good doctor hadn’t spoiled it by asking, Do you feel better now, or should I help you back into bed before you fall?”
Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet


  1. There are so many women in history who have made a difference. These female doctors have my admiration and respect and thanks to you, you shine a line on their accomplishments, Doris, and I absolutely love this excerpt. It's always such fun when the woman has one over the man LOL.

    1. There truly were many unsung women who made a difference in the lives of others. We all have the capacity to do that every day.

      For Josie, she just had her story and I was along for the ride. She still has a big place in my heart. Thank you for the kind words. Doris


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