Female Doctor Overcomes Gender Discrimination
The life of Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair was so full that today’s episode will be the first of three to explore it. She once said, “The regret of my life up to the age of thirty-five was that I had not been born a boy… (and was) … hampered and hemmed in on all sides simply by the accident of … (gender).”
She was an infant when her parents joined the Oregon Trail’s “Great Migration of 1843.” By age 14 she had only three months’ schooling, was married, had a child and was living in a 12x14-foot cabin in Roseburg, Ore. She divorced, completed school, studied to be a milliner and set up shop making high-fashion hats and dresses. At age 30 she enrolled her son in college. Her inquisitive mind led to the study of Gray’s Anatomy, which piqued a desire to become a doctor. Few medical schools admitted female students, so she studied and practiced alternative medicine and didn’t receive a traditional medical degree until she was 40.
As one of Oregon’s first female physicians, she established a successful medical practice in Portland, Ore., married, and became a leading suffragette and advocate of Prohibition.
Sources: Owens-Adair, B.A. Gleanings from a Pioneer Woman Physician's Life. Portland, Ore.: Mann and Beach, Printers, 1922. Print; Miller, Brandon M. Women of the Frontier. Chicago, Ill.: Chicago Review Press, 2013. Print; "Suffrage and Sterilization: Dr. Owens-Adair." Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health. Oregon State Hospital, 2012. Web. 22 Dec. 2014. http://oshmuseum.org/suffrage-and-sterilization-dr-owens-adair/;
Bethenia Owens-Adair. Human Sterilization: It's [sic] Social and Legislative Aspects. Portland, Ore, 1922.