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Seifert, Elizabeth

SEIFERT, Elizabeth

Born 19 June 1897, Washington, Missouri; died June 1983

Also writes under: Ellen Ashley

Daughter of Richard C. and Anna Sanford Seifert; married John Gasparotti, 1920; children: four

Elizabeth Seifert was educated in St. Louis; she received a B.A. in 1918 from Washington University and attended the university's medical school for 18 months. She left, she has explained, because the university refused to grant a medical degree to a woman. Seifert did take courses in anatomy, physiology, and dietetics and later used her knowledge of medical subjects in her novels. When her husband, wounded in WWI, became totally disabled in the 1930s, she needed to earn money to support her husband and four children. Again she pursued her interest in medicine. As a clinical secretary in a small hospital, she took case histories and monitored the activities of both the patients and the staff.

A self-described "wife, housewife, and mother who writes," Seifert began a new career at age forty when Young Doctor Galahad won the 1938 Dodd, Mead-Redbook Magazine $10,000 prize for a first novel. Since this prominent beginning, Dodd, Mead has published 81 of her novels, some of which have been translated into 17 languages. Until a heart attack in the early 1980s, which prevented her from doing the research necessary for a new book, she had completed an average of two books a year throughout her career.

Almost all Seifert's novels are medical romances. Using her knowledge of medicine, which she continued to update by reading medical journals, she creates an air of authenticity in her medical scenes. She is, however, more interested in personal relationships, and the hospital environment with its life and death crises provides the dramatic stage for personal and professional dilemmas doctors face. Although Seifert's novels tend to follow the formula which she adopted from George M. Cohan ("You have a man, you get him up a tree, you throw rocks at him, you get him down again"), her novels about women doctors are of special interest. These usually emphasize the special conflicts faced by a woman doctor who must not only prove she can succeed in medicine, but who must also juggle her role as woman and as doctor. For such a woman, romance is threatening: she may be asked to surrender her career if she accepts a marriage proposal. Eventually, Seifert's women doctors win both professional status and romantic love.

In Girl Intern (1944) Chris (Christine) Metcalfe is repeatedly asked why a pretty girl would try to become a doctor when women are so emotionally and physically unsuited for such a grueling profession. After all, Chris faints when a patient's father pulls a gun on her in the operating room, she weeps and becomes unable to close the incision when a woman dies during a Caesarean section, and she becomes hysterical when rumors accuse her of sexual misconduct. In the end, however, she proves her ability to handle emergencies and to be both a female and a doctor. Even the chief of staff finally relents and admits his love for her. The Story of Andrea Fields (1950) and Miss Doctor (1951) develop similar themes of the isolation of the professional woman from other women and her fears about accepting a man's love.

Unlike her other novels, which stop when the woman doctor successfully wins the man who had previously fought her career, When Doctors Marry (1960) explores the special complications caused by the marriage of two doctors. Even the birth of her child does not deter the heroine from her practice of medicine. Though problems arise, this novel shows one woman combining her roles as wife, mother, and professional.

Seifert has asserted she would not consider writing about failure, and at least in the world of her medical romances, the women doctors eventually solve their dilemmas. They are depicted as emotional and romantic, but Seifert's women doctors remain true to their profession and seek ways to combine marriage and career. Becoming a doctor is not easy for these women: they encounter severe discrimination, but they do not surrender their goals.

Seifert's writing began as a means of self-expression and amusement for a woman in a small town with an invalid husband and four small children. Eventually her writing provided the means of support for her family. When asked how she would like her work to be remembered, she quickly answered, "It saved the life of me and my family."

Other Works:

A Great Day (1939). Hillbilly Doctor (1940). Thus Doctor Mallory (1940). Bright Scalpel (1941). Army Doctor (1942). Doctor Bill (1942). Surgeon in Charge (1942). Bright Banners (1943). A Certain Doctor French (1943). Girl in Overalls: A Novel of Women in Defense Today (as Ellen Ashley, 1943). Doctor Ellison's Decision (1944). Doctor Woodward's Ambition (1945). Orchard Hill (1945). Dusty Spring (1946). Old Doc (1946). So Young, So Fair (1947). Take Three Doctors (1947). The Glass and the Trumpet (1948). Hospital Zone (1948). The Bright Coin (1949). Homecoming (1950). Doctor of Mercy (1951). The Doctor Takes a Wife (1952). The Strange Loyalty of Dr. Carlisle (1952). The Doctor Disagrees (1953). Lucinda Marries the Doctor (1953). Doctor at the Crossroads (1954). Marriage for Three (1954). Challenge for Dr. Mays (1955). A Doctor in the Family (1955). A Call for Dr. Barton (1956). A Doctor for Blue Jay Cove (1956). The Doctor's Husband (1957). Substitute Doctor (1957). Love Calls the Doctor (1958). The New Doctor (1958). Doctor on Trial (1959). Home-town Doctor (1959). The Doctor's Bride (1960). Doctors on Parade (including The Doctor Takes a Wife, The Doctor Disagrees, and Lucinda Marries the Doctor,1960). Dr. Jeremy's Wife (1961). The Doctor Makes a Choice (1961). The Doctor's Strange Secret (1962). The Honor of Dr. Shelton (1962). Dr. Scott, Surgeon on Call (1963). Legacy for a Doctor (1963). A Doctor Comes to Bayard (1964). Katie's Young Doctor (1964). Doctor Samaritan (1965). Ordeal of Three Doctors (1965). Hegerty, M.D. (1966). Pay the Doctor (1966). Doctor With a Mission (1967). The Rival Doctors (1967). The Doctor's Confession (1968). To Wed a Doctor (1968). Bachelor Doctor (1969). For Love of a Doctor (1969). Doctor's Kingdom (1970). The Doctor's Two Lives (1970). Doctor in Judgment (1971). The Doctor's Second Love (1971). Doctor's Destiny (1972). TheDoctor's Private Life (1972). The Doctor's Reputation (1972). The Two Faces of Doctor Collier (1973). Doctor in Love (1974). The Doctor's Daughter (1974). Four Doctors, Four Wives (1975). The Doctor's Desperate Hour (1976). Two Doctors and a Girl (1976). Doctor Tuck (1977). The Doctors on Eden Place (1977). The Doctors Were Brothers (1978). Rebel Doctor (1978). The Doctor's Promise (1979). The Problems of Dr. A (1979).

Bibliography:

Seifert, E., in Writer (Aug. 1945, Oct. 1961).

Reference works:

American Novelists of Today (1951). CA (1967). CB (1951).

Other references:

Columbia Daily Tribune (16 April 1978).

—JEAN CARWILE MASTELLER

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