Mosher, Eliza Maria (1846–1928)
Mosher, Eliza Maria (1846–1928)
American physician and educator . Born on October 2, 1846, in Cayuga County, New York; died of pneumonia and a cerebral thrombosis on October 16, 1928, in New York City; daughter of Augustus Mosher and Maria (Sutton) Mosher; educated in local schools; completed preparatory course plus an extra year of study at the Friends' Academy in Union Springs, New York; entered the New England Hospital for Women and Children as an intern apprentice, 1869; University of Michigan, M.D., 1875; never married; no children.
Engaged in private practice in Poughkeepsie, New York (1875–77); appointed resident physician at Massachusetts Reformatory Prison for Women (1877); appointed superintendent of the prison (1880); forced to resign after accidental injury (1883); returned to private practice with Dr. Lucy M. Hall, with whom she also alternated semesters as resident physician and associate professor of physiology and hygiene at Vassar College (1883–87); organized medical training course at the Union Missionary Training Institute (1888); became lecturer on anatomy and hygiene at the Chautauqua, New York, summer school (1889); became dean of women and professor of hygiene at the University of Michigan (1896); resigned as dean due to ill health (1902); maintained private practice and gave lectures for rest of her life.
Born on October 2, 1846, Eliza Mosher was the youngest of six children of Augustus Mosher and Maria Sutton Mosher . She received her education at the local district school and at the Friends' Academy in Union Springs, New York, to which she returned for an extra year of study following her father's death in 1865. In 1867, after nursing her brother through his death from tuberculosis, she decided on a medical career. Despite opposition from family and friends, she entered the New England Hospital for Women and Children as an intern apprentice in 1869. Her medical schooling was delayed due to her mother's illness and eventual death, and she instead spent the winter of 1870–71 in Boston assisting Dr. Lucy E. Sewall in private practice. In 1871, she entered the University of Michigan, and after completing the medical course received her M.D. in 1875. Mosher worked in private practice in Poughkeepsie, New York, until 1877, when she was asked to become resident physician at the new Massachusetts Reformatory Prison for Women (created through the efforts of Ellen Cheney Johnson ). While there, she established hospital facilities and almost single-handedly dealt with the medical, surgical, and even dental care of the prisoners. For a brief period, she studied in France and England, and in 1880 she reluctantly accepted the superintendency of the prison. A knee injury in 1883 forced her resignation from that post.
For seven years, Mosher was in constant pain and dependent on crutches until a surgical operation she had devised was successfully performed on her knee. During this time, she managed to remain active and formed a practice in Brooklyn, New York, with Dr. Lucy Mabel Hall (Brown) , a former colleague at the reformatory. From 1883 to 1887, they also alternated semesters as resident physician and associate professor of physiology and hygiene at Vassar College. In 1888, Mosher founded the medical training course at the Union Missionary Institute in Brooklyn. The following year, she became a lecturer on anatomy and hygiene and examining physician to women students at the Chautauqua, New York, summer school of physical education.
Abandoning her private practice again, in 1896 she became dean of women and professor of hygiene—the first woman member of the faculty—at the University of Michigan. She also served as resident physician to women and director of physical education. These were not easy years for Mosher, for her initiation of a required program of calisthenics for women and her almost compulsive emphasis on posture did not make her the most popular person on campus. She had gained acceptance, however, by 1902, when she resigned because of her fear of a reoccurrence of the difficulties with her knee. (One source cites the cause as cancer.) These problems finally were cured by radical surgery in 1905 and 1906. For the remainder of her life, she practiced medicine privately in Brooklyn and occasionally lectured at Mt. Holyoke College, Adelphi College, Pratt Institute, and the Brooklyn YWCA. She was also active in many civic groups, and in 1924 she mobilized schoolchildren, women's clubs, and others in an attack on littering and dirty streets in Brooklyn. Active as well in many medical organizations, she was president of the Women's Medical Society of New York, honorary president of the Medical Women's National Association, and a founder of the American Women's Hospitals Committee. Mosher also served as senior editor (1905–28) of the Medical Women's Journal, and was a founder of the American Posture League. She was interested in the medical benefits of good posture, and she designed and patented several types of posture chairs, including streetcar seats. Her 1912 book, Health and Happiness: A Message to Girls, was widely used. Mosher continued her medical practice until only a few months before her death from pneumonia and a cerebral thrombosis in New York City in 1928.
James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.
McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.
Bugbee, Emma. Woman Citizen. April 4, 1925.
Hinsdale, Burke A. History of the University of Michigan, 1906.
Medical Woman's Journal (commemorative issue in Mosher's honor; includes reprints of professional papers as well as biographical material). May 1925.
Eliza Mosher's papers are held in the Michigan Historical Collections at the University of Michigan.
Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont