Wilhite - Mary Halloway - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Wilhite - Mary Halloway

Sources: P1886 / Indiana State Board of Health 1882, 1884, 1890 Record# 1780 in database 19th Indiana Century Physicians
Source: 19th Century Database of Indiana Physicians
I edit a local magazine called Montgomery Memories - this was in the February 2014 issue -- kbz

Since Jodie (Local Historian Librarian at Crawfordsville District Public Library)  mentioned Dr. Mary Wilhite in her article, I thought it would be fitting to dedicate this issue on disease to this fine lady. Mary Martin Holloway was born in Montgomery County on the third day of February in 1831 and died on the 8th of the same month in 1892. Well into old maidship, on Christmas Eve in 1860, she married Eleazer Allen Wilhite, a tailor in Crawfordsville ten years older than she. An interesting man, Eleazer (born the 1st of January 1820 in Jefferson County, Kentucky) was four when he came to our fair city, and lost both parents by 1833. He began tailoring at age ten and became quite renowned in his trade. I found one of the most interesting facts about him, though, was being in the Crawfordsville band for over 50 years, even playing at the Tippecanoe Battleground celebration. His first wife, Ada Blankenship died young, leaving one son. He and Mary had seven children, losing three at a young age. Mary's mother also died when Mary was in her teens, so these folks' lives were full of hardships and sorrow. However, it seemed little got this lady down for long. Always a student, Mary decided early on to become a teacher. She worked at that for four years, saving her money for bigger and better things. Determination and hard work got her through medical school when it was almost unheard of for women to attend. Her benefactor was J. Edgar Thomson, a member of the board of Penn Medical University (Philadelphia). She named her first son after this man. Upon graduation, she returned to Crawfordsville and "nailed her sign" up where it stayed three decades.

This shingle marked the first lady from Indiana to graduate from a medical college and to announce her doctorship in such a bold way. Tough it was for Mary with the male doctors at first as there was great bitterness at the gumption of a woman filtering their tight-knit male group; however, with her spunk, strong character, unselfishness, "tireless zeal and indomitable energy," she won over not only the other doctors but everyone in town. Especially contributory to the extreme poor, Dr. Mary arose in the dark, nasty nights and with no hope of compensation went to tend patients. They all loved her. Particularly interested in aiding girls out of poverty and helping small children, she founded the Orphan's Home and taught girls self-respect and attitude change not only telling but showing what hard work could accomplish for any female. Two ladies studied under Dr. Mary, one doctoring with a foreign mission and the other holding three degrees and having an extensive practice in Terre Haute. Both, incidentally, were married. In the 1874 People's Guide, Dr. Mary Wilhite was the only listed Radical in the "Politic" category. This went right along with Mary's viewpoints. A Radical in that time strongly opposed slavery, worked for past slaves' rights and civil rights as well. Mary was quite active in women's rights not only in our community but in a national sphere, as well. She was very good friends with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Understandably, she named one of her sons, Stanton.

Mary's interests went way beyond her profession and constant work in civil rights movements; she was a "quiet, modest, worker in the Christian Church," as well. Upon her death, a special meeting was held of her fellow physicians. As a result, an impressive memorial was put in the paper. "Her life has been a sacrifice for the good of others. She was a born reformer for equality. She began her professional life when women were expected to aspire to domestic duties alone. Her monument as a physician and humanitarian is more lasting than any carved in marble. Her pleasures were few and her sorrows many. The cares of a growing family, added years and ill health were never sufficient to dampen the ardor she felt in her professional work." Sure wish we had that "small, tin sign that swayed in the breeze bearing the name of a legend," but at least we have much information, a few pictures and an interest in this fine lady to whom we dedicate this issue of Montgomery Memories. -- kbz
See also Dr. Mary's obituaries -- great biographical information
See also her husband's biography which has some wonderful  comments about her - Eleazer A. Wilhite

Source: Atlas of Montgomery County (Chicago: Beers, 1878) p 55

WILHITE, Mrs. Mary, PO Crawfordsville; native of Va; settled  in this co. 1823.
Note from Montgomery County INGenWeb coordinator and local historian, Karen Bazzani Zach -- I have been fascinated with doctors from the county since I first became interested in local history about 55 years ago.  Dr. Mary is particularly fascinating.  This is a repeta of some of the above, but has some different information as well.
Zach, Karen Bazzani.  Montgomery Medicine Men .. and Women .. Crawfordsville: Montgomery County Historical Society, 2002.

The sick always brightened when Dr. Mary arrived.  Mary Mitchell Holloway was born February 3, 1831 near Crawfordsville (on property that is now in the city), the daughter of J. Washington Holloway, a cabinet maker. She posessed a striking personality, was above average in stature and "inspired hope in the sick chamber."  A large number of her visits wer to homes of th impoverished where setoiled long and ws paid little.  Often, Dr. Mary visited the poor farm where she was shocked to see the plight of the children.  "To her was ascribed the founding of the Orphan's Home in Montgomery County."  Although Dr. Mary was quiet and extremely modest, she was a zealous worker for causes of interest to her.  

Her mother, Elizabeth King died when Mary was 17.  Her parents had been poor, so Mary set out to make her own way.  She sewed!  She taught!  She paid her own tuition to Penn Medical College in Philadlphia, after which she immediately "hung out her sign on Wabash Avenue, Crawfordsville, where it remained until her death!"  She was one of the first women to practice medicine in the state of Indiana.  "As early as 1850, she was interested in the women's rights movement, selling subscriptions for the Woman's Advocate.  It fact, in 1869, she wsa the chair for organizing the Woman's Suffrage Association and became its first secretary."  At close to 30 years old, Mary married Eleazer A. Wilhite,  a well-known  and respected local tailor.  He was more than 10 years older than his wife, yet the Wilhites still had seven children.

Dr. Wilhite campaigned against the use of liquor and tobacco.  She wrote medical articles for the Crawfordsville Evening Journal for several years in regards to the nastities.  These articles had such titles as, "The Crust and the Cure: How Whisky and Tobacco Produce Poverty and Misery."  

Mary remained true to her husband, children and her patients, doing almost the impossible in those days.  Dr. Wilhite met with some resentment by the county's male physicians, except for Dr. Rylan T. Brown, who immediately noted her potential.  Yet, soon after her demise (February 1892) several of her colleagues gathered to pay tribute to this humanitarian.  These words spoken that day were fitting acknowledgement to wmoen of the day and especially to Dr. Mry.  "Byer herlabors as a physician and humanitarian heas built a monument more lasting than could be carved on a marble slab or written on a parchment roll ... and hundreds of people ... will rever the name of Dr. Mary H. Wilhite!"

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