Tuesday, March 9, 2021

March - National Women's History Month and Anna D. Chambelain



I have great memories of my research on Colorado's woman doctors. In that research,
I also located a woman dentist who had graduated dental school. I decided to use this
post to let you know about her. Perhaps Anna's story will remind you how important 
dreams are.

Anna D (Shaw) Chamberlain and her husband Frank C. Chamberlain, according to the
city directory, had dental offices in Colorado Springs in 1896. They lived at 
1451 N Nevada Ave with offices in one of the bank buildings in the center part of town.
Frank, in addition to being a dentist, also could add M.D. to his name.

Anna was born in 1866 to John and Helen B. Shaw in Harlan, Page County, Iowa. 
Her father was from Ireland and her mother from Ohio. She married Frank in 1887
and lived in Colorado from that time. The couple had three children by 1900. 

She deserves admiration, not only for being a professional woman but for raising three
children while doing so. She and her husband were associated with dentistry from at 
least 1888, having an office in the Pikes Peak region from that date. She was also the 
first woman to graduate from the University in Denver with a degree in dentistry. 

By 1911, the couple had moved to 2016 N Cascade Ave., still in Colorado Springs.
They celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary at this address. It was interesting,
despite her credentials as a dentist, the paper listed the event as Dr. F.C. and
Mrs. Chamberlain. 

In addition to all her other duties, Anna was also active in the church and the 
Women's Christian Temperance Union. In the late 1890s was the president of
the local chapter of the WCTU. Anna and her husband, with Wm. H Dewey 
and Oscar J. Fullerton, created the Fullerton Consumption Cure Company. 
The initial investment for the company was $30,000.

As an interesting side note, Frank's brother Fred, who was also a dentist in the
Cripple Creek mining district, married a woman by the name of Anna also.
The difference, Fred's wife had the middle initial B.

 Anna <I>Shaw</I> Chamberlain
Anna's headstone in Evergreen Cemetery (photo by Ron West)

Anna died in 1914 at the age of forty-eight. According to the death records the
cause of death was pernicious anemia. After her death, her husband Frank moved
to California and remarried. Records show his second wife had worked in his
office there. Upon his death, this second wife returned his body to Colorado Springs, 
Colorado, where he was buried next to Anna in Evergreen Cemetery.

In the book "Josie's Dream", part of the Grandma's Wedding Quilt series, Josie has
the dream of being a doctor in a small town in Colorado. She pursues this dream 
and gets more than she expected.

Now here she was in Kiowa Wells, on the eastern plains of Colorado just a few miles from the railhead at Kit Carson. Her biggest obstacle now was finding a place to set up her medical practice.
Despite his reservations, her father gave her a medical bag, equipped with the basics. “Something to remind you of this commitment, your Hippocratic oath,” were his parting words.
Her parents, though still in Iowa, were in her heart. Still, she knew it had been time to leave. While others of her friends were getting married, she had gone to medical school, her path clear to her.
“Can I help you?” The voice behind her asked, a hand reaching around to grab her bags.
Turning to face the speaker, Josie took in the disheveled appearance, the look of cunning in the eyes.
“I can manage, thank you,” Josie replied, taking a firmer hold on her belongings.
“Now, there is no need to be rude. I was just tryin’ to be helpful,” the man said as he tugged at her bag.
Stiffening, Josie sternly repeated, “I can manage.”
With a hard yank, the man managed to pull her doctor bag loose and without a thought, Josie swung her large bag at the man, striking him on the legs as he turned to run off. Instead, he found himself flat on the ground.
Calmly, Josie bent, retrieved her property, and knowing he was just stunned, started down the street. She had only gone a few steps when she heard a bellow behind her.
“Let me get to the point quickly,” she said as she turned to her tormentor, who stopped so quickly he almost fell. “I have nothing of value you could use. So, unless you are in need of medical care, I suggest you stop while you are ahead.” Now, standing close, she could smell the liquor on him. Her eye took in his inability to stand upright without swaying. But to be fair, his fall might have had something do to with that.
“Doctorin’?” he questioned, “you’re lying.”
The two of them were drawing a crowd. Not the best way to start, Josie thought, but not a bad one either.

“Yes, as you say doctorin’, I am a Doctor.”


Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Agela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

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