Mary E. Barrell, M.D. (1862 – 1935)
Mary Elizabeth Barrell was born in December 1862 and raised in York along with seven siblings in a farm family headed by Martha J. (Odlin) and Charles Colburn Barrell (1817–1899), who obviously valued higher education and encouraged their offspring to pursue professional careers. Mary’s younger brothers also
chose medical careers: Charles (1868–1931) graduated Harvard (1894) and had a successful medical practice in Boston and a home on Beacon Street, and was affiliated with Carney Hospital. George, also a Harvard alumnus (1894, 1897), was a successful dentist in Somerville (MA). Mary probably kept in contact with her siblings during her career in medicine.
Mary earned her medical degree at Woman’s Medical College (PA) in 1897. She spent the following year interning at New England Hospital for Women and Children. Mary briefly gave it a go in Maine before settling in Worcester (MA). In Maine she successfully passed examination by the Maine Board of Medical Registration in June 1898, the only woman among a long list of new male physicians that year. She became a consulting physician in gynecology at St. Vincent Hospital, a member of the Worcester Woman’s Club, and served on the local Committee on Public Schools. In fact, she presented a detailed paper on results of the 1906 law that required annual inspections of all school children. She did not return to practice in Maine. She remained single and died at age 73 in March 1935.
Sarah L. Hunter, M.D. (1857 – 1947)
Sarah Lincoln Hunter and her sister Annie were fortunate to be educated at Mount Holyoke College. Sarah went on to earn her medical diploma at the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1884. She became a member of the Maine Medical Association in 1894. Her father, Dr. Samuel B. Hunter, for a time was the association president. The Hunters were originally a farm family in Machias. Her uncle, Warren Hunter, also was a physician in Machias. Warren’s son Charles W. Hunter— Dr. Sarah’s cousin—also was a physician. Family reunions must have been interesting when this medical family gathered. Another cousin, Dr. David Hunter, was a physician out West.
Sarah returned to Machias with her M.D. degree and lived with her parents. The Hunter father and daughter were two of the five physicians in Machias, for a population just over 2,000. A college report in 1900 claimed that Sarah was one of only ten women practicing medicine in Maine. (We now know that was not accurate because there were more.) A 1904 local history included the Hunter family and reported that Sarah was a physician, the first woman in the profession in Washington County. Like many others, Sarah remained single and continued as a physician in Machias. She died there on August 14, 1947, having lived a month more than ninety years.
“Miss Lelia Higgins is a graduate of Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia, and gained her first experience in practical work at the Lying-in Charity Hospital. A remarkably intelligent lady, with a natural gift for her work, she has a very large practice, and has won the confidence and love of all who have claimed her services.” —Biographical Review (1897)