Friday, July 23, 2010

Hastings’ First Female Doctor

Sarah Elizabeth "Lizzie" Curry, probably taken in the 1880s.

Do you find obituaries depressing? But you never know what fascinating lives lie behind these short paragraphs! Take a look at this obituary from the Yonkers Herald Statesman of 1932.

“Hastings-on-Hudson, May 31 – Dr. Sarah Elizabeth Curry, one of the oldest woman doctors in the country, died at her home here yesterday after a long illness. Dr. Curry, who lived at 219 Thompkins Avenue, was in her late seventies. Born in New York, the daughter of the late Francis M. and Mary Lane Curry, she moved to Hastings at an early age. Because the Curry home was on the Yonkers-Hastings line, she attended School One in Yonkers for a number of years before continuing her education in Chappaqua and Pennington Seminary. She was graduated from the Women’s Medical College in New York and after practicing in that city, returned here to enter general practice. She retired about 15 years ago because of poor health. She is survived by her brother, Town Judge Frank E. Curry of Greenburgh, and a number of nieces and nephews. ... Burial will be in the family plot in Mount Hope Cemetery.”

Bare bones, indeed—but intriguing! A few comments in the oral histories done for the Historical Society by Vira Curry McNiece, Sarah’s niece, fill in some of the details.

“There was a carriage house on the property that was quite a distance from the house. It housed a two-seater carriage and a buggy. It had a flight of stairs that wound upstairs where the walls were plastered. That’s where school was held. Some of the children around attended, as did my mother. My doctor aunt taught there for a while after my grandfather died while she was waiting for her inheritance.

Later she practiced somewhere in New York, and then she came home and commuted on the old Putnam Railroad, going down every morning and coming back in the evenings. Still later she had her office at our house in Hastings. She charged 50 cents for office visits. I don’t think she had too large a practice, but she made lots of house calls—for $1.00 each—in her horse and buggy. She had quite a few patients in northern Yonkers and on Washington Avenue in Hastings. [Both lower income neighborhoods (Ed).] She was a homeopathic doctor. She lived to be 76 when she died of cancer.”

We’d love to know more about Dr. Lizzie. Anything we discover, we’ll share with you!

June 1894 graduating class of the New York Medical College and Hospital for Women, a homeopathic institution incorporated under the University of the State of New York in 1863. Sarah is the tallest woman standing in the back row, framed by the central arch. This was the first place in New York City where a woman could study medicine and, until 1918, the only hospital that accepted female interns. When Sarah attended it, the school was located near Carnegie Hall.

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