Women & Children First

Women and Children First, with author, historian Susan Wilson

Tuesday April 2 at 11 AM 


Tuesday April 16, at 11 AM

In 19th-century America, it was assumed that woman patients would be treated by male doctors. The idea of a “woman doctor” was deemed by many to lie some-where between unfathomable and repugnant. Then along came Susan Dimock. A young North Carolinian who dreamed of becoming a physician, and grew up to practice medicine in Boston, Dimock was not the first American woman to battle the patriarchal medical establishment. But in the 1870s, she was arguably the best-educated, most-skilled woman surgeon in the nation as well as living proof that a woman could be competent, smart, lovely, and kind—all in the same package.

Dimock’s life reads like an adventure story, from recoiling at slave auctions and witnessing Civil War battles to escaping her fire-engulfed Southern hometown, then finding her place among Boston’s most enterprising women. She studied medicine in Zurich and Vienna, hiked the Swiss Alps, executed complex surgeries, and trained America’s first professional nurses, ultimately inspiring a new generation of female surgeons. It’s no surprise that a prestigious Viennese medical professor, when asked for advice to aspiring young doctors, replied simply, “Make yourself to be like Miss Dimock.” This biography is the first to give Susan Dimock her rightful place in medical, women’s, and world history.

Books will be available for sale at the reception following the event.

Susan Wilson is a professional photographer, writer, and public historian. She is the official House Historian of the Omni Parker House in Boston, an Affiliate Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University, and an Honorary Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society. After receiving a B.A. and M.A. in history from Tufts University, Susan taught history at both the secondary school and college levels before moving into a career in journalism and photojournalism. Her writing and photography regularly appeared in the Boston Globe between 1978 and 1996. Since 1994 she has been writing books on Boston history, including Heaven, By Hotel Standards: The History of the Omni Parker House; Boston Sites and Insights; The Literary Trail of Greater Boston; and Garden of Memories: A Guide to Historic Forest Hills. Her brand-new book, Women and Children First: The Trailblazing Life of Susan Dimock, MD, is the subject of her presentation today.