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New book details contributions made by the 'Women of Mayo Clinic'

New book details contributions made by the 'Women of Mayo Clinic'

Most Rochester residents have heard the story of the 1883 tornado that was the impetus for the Mayo Clinic, or about the groundbreaking work of Doctors Will and Charlie Mayo in building upon their father’s medical practice.

But often lost in those narratives are the women who played leading roles in transforming a small clinic located in a fledgling prairie town into one of the United States’ best medical centers — women such as Mother Alfred Moes, Eleanora Fry, Daisy Berkman Plummer and Dr. Gertrude Booker.

 
 

These stories of more than 40 incredible women have now been artfully recounted by local writer and teacher Virginia Wright-Peterson in her new book, Women of Mayo Clinic: The Founding Generation.

Take Sister Joseph Dempsey — the woman who served as the administrator of St. Marys Hospital for more than 40 years.

“A lot of us walk through the Joseph building at St. Marys and have no idea of her contributions,” Wright-Perterson said in a recent interview.

Photo: St. Marys Hospital / 1889 / History Center of Olmsted County

Or consider the work of Maud Mellish Wilson. She not only created Mayo Clinic’s first library; her careful editing eye ensured that news of medical advancements occurring at the clinic were published around the world.

“Her contributions were phenomenal,” Wright-Peterson said. “They were certainly doing great things here, but if no one had known about them Mayo wouldn’t have become world-renowned.”

An exhibition supporting the stories told in Women of Mayo Clinic is on display in the Hage Atrium of Mayo Clinic's Siebens Building from March 1 – 17.

Photo: Virginia M. Wright-Peterson / Brendan Bush Photography

In addition to photographs and narratives from the book, the exhibition will also feature historical artifacts, such as surgical equipment, from the eras these women worked in.

A book launch celebration will take place March 2 at 6:30 p.m. in the Siebens Building. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include remarks from Wright-Peterson and a one-woman performance of six of the women’s stories by performer Megan Cole.

The book is available for purchase at Mayo Clinic stores and online through the Minnesota Historical Society Press

 
 

About Claire Walling: Claire is a contributing editor for the Med City Beat. She moved to Rochester two years ago from the Twin Cities after graduating from Hamline University. When she’s not working as a business writer she enjoys running the great trails around the region, designing and creating things, and drinking coffee. Fun fact: she was on a relay team that ran across Iowa in 54 hoursTwitter.


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(Cover photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society Press)

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