During the first
twenty to thirty years after the pioneers settled the Salt Lake Valley,
the only healers were "Thomsonian" doctors who acquired their knowledge
and "license" by paying $20.00 to a "Dr. Thomson" for a book on herbal
medicine and the right to dispense his herbs. Others followed the maxim
of "puke 'em, sweat 'em, purge 'em." No wonder Brigham Young advised
the Saints to heal each other by the "laying on of hands."
and child death rates prompted Brigham Young to encourage some women
living in polygamy who had already borne children to study medicine
at the Woman's Medical College in Philadelphia; but there was no provision
for their financial support. When these women returned home in the summer
to earn money to support themselves during the school year, many became
pregnant again, which added to their financial and emotional woes. Ellis
Shipp began medical school in 1872 and took advanced training in obstetrics
and gynecology. The "grand old lady of Utah medicine" is credited with
founding a school of midwifery, and she delivered thousands of babies
and published widely in the areas of hygiene and public health. Another
woman, Dr. Romania Pratt, took special training in ophthalmology and
performed the first cataract operation in the territory.
early prominence of women in Utah medicine lasted for only one generation.
A significant increase of female students and physicians did not begin
until the 1970s and 1980s, but with only 17 percent female medical students
in the early 1990s, Utah remains below the national average of thirty-five