Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Jessie Laird Brodie

We had today our second planning meeting for the upcoming exhibit on women in medicine, Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America's Women Physicians (coming in June 2008 to the Multnomah County Library Central Branch). Discussion about the planned postcard series and some of the candidate women caused me to pull out the autobiography of 1928 University of Oregon Medical School alumna Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. The following is one nice vignette included in that memoir:
When our oldest son, Laird, was about eight years old, Portland had an epidemic of influenza. My husband and I were both exposed in our practice. When I contracted the disease, we followed our customary procedure of semi-isolation in the house. My husband, consequently, used a temporary couch in the hall. "What's the matter with Laird?" he asked me after a few days. I replied that I had noticed nothing in the short conversations we had had through the open door. However, when Laird next came to say good night, I asked what was bothering him. "Mother, are you and Dad going to get a divorce?" I am sure I showed my astonishment. He finally explained that at school, the boys said that whenever a mother and dad did not sleep together, they were planning a divorce. I explained to him that two doctors did not dare to be ill at the same time, when they had many patients depending on them, and that we were using separate rooms only to avoid passing on infections. I was amazed to realize that children of this age discussed such family problems.
Brodie and her physician husband were fortunate in their ability to practice together and stay together; they were married until Walter's death in 1977. Jessie lived on to see her 92nd birthday, finally passing away in 1990.

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