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Educated Driven and Direct Dr. Jennie C. Murphy, Yankton’s First Female Physician vBy Chauntel Wright Take a moment and imagine it is 1865 and you a thirteen-yearold young girl. Your sister, two brothers, and you are growing up in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, a populated area located across the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The outskirts of town are rural and agricultural; however, the city is highly industrious. Pennsylvania has been immersed in defending the Union in the Civil War which is nearing its end that same year in April. Your father Major Hugh B. Murphy is a veteran and announces your family will be moving to the Dakota Territory. I can only imagine what young Jennie was thinking. “Where is the Dakota Territory?” “What is it like there?” “Isn’t it dangerous there?” She must have contemplated leaving her friends and family behind to go live in an area which was rough and tumble and full of challenges. The family packed-up and made the long and rugged trek west. They arrived, settled, and Major Murphy opened a livery stable selling horses on what is now Douglas Avenue. Jennie and her siblings attended the Old Central School which was located where the Yankton Community Library now stands. While in school, she learned bookkeeping and went to work for a local lumber yard managing their ledgers. Upon graduation, she became employed by Dr. James Buchanan where she continued using her trade. Dr. and Mrs. Buchanan saw Jennie’s intelligence and potential and they encouraged her to attend medical school. This piqued her interest and she began making plans on how to attend medical school. Historically, women working outside of the home was rare especially in male dominated professions such as doctors and lawyers. Women typically upheld traditional roles raising and educating their children, reading the Bible, cooking, cleaning, mending, and tending to their husbands needs. While these were standard roles for both city and country women, it was different on the frontier where Jennie lived. The land was rugged, the climate was unforgiving, it was sparsely populated, and there was the constant fear of Indian attacks. If the family was farming and ranching the next neighbor could be miles away. Outside of attending church, selling homemade goods at a local bazaar or fair, or attending a quilting bee there was little to no contact with others. Men attended to the business in town and typically the women stayed home. 12vHERVOICEvSEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 This is not to paint a picture that women in the Dakota Territory were weak because it is quite the contrary. Women helping settle the frontier were tough. They still upheld their role and duties as mothers and wives, but added arduous work, tough weather, dirt, bugs, and varmints. They became industrious and could handle a rifle when needed. Travelers to the frontier noted “…a spunky quality of the women. In sharp contrast to the citified women with their multiple layers of petticoats, their delicate natures, and their tendency to faint, frontier and rural women lacked pretension, bustled around, cooked, canned, and generally kept the home fires burning with good cheer and good will…Frontier women remained optimistic despite evidence to the contrary. They cleaned the dust out of their houses knowing that the same task would be required the next day. They endured the wrinkled skin, the chapped hands, and the rough clothing, hoping against hope, that things would get better, the crops would improve, the fur skins yield more money, and the winter remain mild.” (Sochen) Ruralness also presented challenges when it came to illness. The remoteness of the area made it difficult to access a doctor if there was one even available. Most women became midwives and homeopathic doctors making home remedies to treat their family members and neighbors. They shared these therapies amongst each other. Due to their nurturing nature, and experiences in homeopathy it was not uncommon for women to have an interest in the medical field. Jennie knew if she wanted to attend medical school she would have to earn and save money. A common profession for women at the time was school teaching so she took the county exam and passed. Her first assignment was the Box School, which later became Grove School, in east Yankton. Known to run a “tight ship”, Jennie was given a raise and transferred to Fishbeck No. 14 located in Utica, SD. On January 12, 1888, the infamous “children’s blizzard” struck the Dakotas. A wise Jennie knew not to release the children from school instead keeping them safe inside the schoolhouse. Dressed in their coats, hats, and mufflers she kept the children moving playing games, singing, and writing letters. Jennie recalled “they wrote so many that we used up all the paper we had.” (Karolevitz) The next morning Joseph Rankin rescued the children and Jennie in his sleigh. The children’s blizzard claimed the lives of at least 112 individuals mostly children who were sent home from school when

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