Susan LaFlesche Picotte: One heck of a role model

Susan LaFlesche Picotte: One heck of a role model

Hello all!

How are you doing all? I hope you are enjoying your weekend. Such beautiful weather on the

Susan LaFlesche Picotte

Susan LaFlesche Picotte

West Coast! If you know my Facebook page, you will have seen my post about a wonderful Native woman by the name of Susan LaFlesche-Picotte, who was the first Native woman to become a physician in the USA. You go girl! What a good role model! So, today, I will be discussing her life and her contributions to the Native people. Go Susan LaFlesche Picotte!

P.S. Before we go further, the Red Man would like to write for someone else. He would like his writing to be shared on someone else’s website. if you are interested, please let me know. You would be receiving his articles through regular mail.

P.P.S. Notice my new header? What are your thoughts about it? It was made by a wonderful artist named Rory CJ Frankson. See his Facebook page. Thanks Rory!!

The early life of Susan LaFlesche and the world she was living in

Susan was born in June 1865 on the Omaha Indian Reservation in Nebraska. Her father was Chief Joseph LaFlesche (Iron Eyes) of the Omaha tribe and her mother was Mary (One Woman).

Mary LaFlesche

Mary, Susan’s mother

Both wanted Susan and her siblings (she had three sisters) to be exposed to both worlds, the Native world and the White man world. She attended school on a reservation and then went into the White man’s world to get the education she felt she needed to get to help her people.

 

Let’s just think for a second about the time period Susan was born into and grew up in. She was born in a time of war. Wars regarding the land, regarding basic human rights taken away from the Native people. A time during which every power of decision was taken away. Parents were forced to send their children to residential school, people were confined to live on reservations that they did not even control. Food and basic essentials were rationed, the land that used to be theirs, actually the land they came from, where they lived with all their relations, was taken away. Ceremonies and traditional ways of living were outlawed. Holy!

And what did Susan do about it? She became a freaking doctor! Talk about showing them! Maybe without knowing it, she used her own experience growing up on a poor diseased reservation. Maybe it helped her choose her destiny. It is said that her seeing a sick Native woman die because she was being refused services by a white doctor, made her want to change her people’s conditions. She might not have consciously known it at the time but she embarked on a mission to better her life and the life of her people.

Her education in the White world

She then went on to attend the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies and later the Hampton Institute in Virginia, from which she graduated in 1886. But she was not satisfied. So she did not stop there. Oh no! Encouraged by a mentor she applied for a scholarship with the U.S. office of Indian Affairs, which she received and used to attend the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. And yes people, she became a medical doctor 4 years later! A Native woman doctor. The epitome of living in both worlds.

Susan LaFlesche at her graduation

Susan LaFlesche at her graduation

Following her education, Susan went back home and worked for a government hospital, caring for both Native and white patients. She did her best to improve the conditions of her people by educating them on cleanliness and hygiene and ventilation (as tuberculosis was rampant at the time). It could be said that she worked with dedication, oftentimes having to buy supplies with her own money (as her salary was little) and making house calls at all times of the day in frigid weather (let’s face it, Nebraska winters are cold!). But the very long days took a toll on Susan, who was bedridden for 2 months in 1893.

Balancing all of her roles

She then went on to marry Henry Picotte, a Sioux man, and they eventually moved to a different Nebraska town. At the time, the typical role of married women was to stay home and raise kids. Well not for Susan! Not only did she raise their two kids, she also opened her own private practice and worked full time. Not only that, she also took care of Henry who suffered from

Susan, her sister Marguerite and husbands, who were brothers

Susan, her sister Marguerite and husbands, who were brothers

alcoholism. Following his death in 1905, Susan became vocal about alcohol on reservations, advocating for its prohibition. All the while, Susan created controversy by supporting the Peyote movement (the use of peyote in Native rituals and traditions). As a medical doctor, her stance put her against numerous of her colleagues. But she also advocated for better conditions on reservations and against the stealing and selling of the land. She also made it a point to show that she could oversee her husband’s estate just as much as a male relative.

 

 

 

Susan was a force to be reckoned with. She used her medical background to teach and educate her people on the importance of hygiene and disease prevention, eventually opening a hospital on the Omaha reservation town of Walthill, Nebraska. She brought the missing care of her childhood to her people. I would describe Susan as a kick ass woman! I am sorry but she rocked. She did not bow down to the traditional roles and stereotypes of the white world. She showed the world she could do more and she did. She stood up for what she believed in and became a role model. She showed the world what a woman can do. She was caring, strong, determined and nurturing. And I can identify a lot with that. I am not the traditional woman. Some say I am stubborn but I say I am determined. I have ambition and I am not satisfied with doing the strict minimum. I speak up when I feel I need to, call people on their bullshit while being caring and nurturing. I have a feeling Susan and I would have gotten along very well. 🙂

Susan LaFlesche Picotte-1889

Susan LaFlesche Picotte-1889

What do you all think about Susan LaFlesche Picotte? Are you finding her to be an inspiration too?

All my Relations

 

32 thoughts on “Susan LaFlesche Picotte: One heck of a role model

  1. Garry W Barnhardt

    I enjoyed the information on this wonderful woman, i would like to know how much the book cost in American monies. Thank you for posting this.

    Reply
  2. Camille

    I am inspired by such a strong woman. What a courageous woman of her time. She must have faced so many setbacks in that era but never let anything truly get in her way! Thank you for sharing such a great story.

    Reply
  3. William Wise

    Very interesting. It is good to know a lil history about those less talked about. Thanx for taking the time to share this with us. I’m looking forward to future posts on many other historic people from Native American history.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      thanks William!
      Susan LaFleshe Picotte is unfortunately not as known as she should be but hopefully more people will now know how great she was 🙂

      Reply
  4. edy

    Hey Emily!
    As usual, you have such a great passion on writing historical post.
    It is sometime very refreshing to read other people story back in time. There are so much to learn and take note.
    This lady namely Susan LaFlesche-Picotte has a fascinating role. I can tell that she is a caring person because of her teaching to people on the importance of hygiene and disease prevention. Look forward to read the book for more cool information. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Edy
      thanks for visiting! She was a caring and strong woman, one I identify with a lot. A great role model who faced adversity head on 🙂

      Reply
  5. Chris

    Hey Emily,
    very inspiring article.
    I can’t imagine the obstacles and tribulations that Susan must of faced in becoming the first native women physician.
    Her parents must have recognized the importance of an education in this new white man’s world as things were changing so much.
    She sounds like an incredible woman who devoted her life to helping others.
    Very inspiring,
    thanks Chris.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Chris!
      I can only imagine what Susan would have faced in terms of obstacles. But they would have been significant. Her parents did want her and and her siblings to be expose to both worlds, which probably allowed her to take the route she ended up taking.

      Reply
  6. Lynne

    Wow, what a woman!
    She certainly achieved a lot in her life. I’ve never hard of Susan Picotte before, but so glad I read this article and learned about her.

    Reply
  7. gloria eagle

    I am very impressed by doctor Picotte. She was a great spirit. We can all learn from her. She acted against unbelievable obstacles and won against the odds. You know, the obstacles Dr. Picotte had to face then, are as bad as the obstacles a woman has to face nowadays, if she wants to become chief of her tribe. The men would shred her to pieces! She must have received help from Mescalitos, the spirit of Peyotee. Her achievements under the circumstances were beyond ordinary huna capacity. We cannot expect the average person to be able to overcome such great obstacles. But, yes, Dr. Picotte should be remembered.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Oh I absolutely agree Gloria! The obstacles she faced are unfortunately still faced by women today. Maybe that is why I admire her so much. She rose above conflict and showed the world all she had 🙂

      Reply
  8. Yvonne

    What an incredible woman and role model! And all this took place during war and when human rights were not given. She showed strength, determination and passion for her cause. We can all learn from her and history. Thank you for sharing this article.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Yvonne
      Susan sure was a strong woman and she was passionate about her people and their conditions. She did everything she could to better them and show the world what a woman can do!

      Reply
  9. Laura

    Wow! What a strong woman and awesome role model! She really accomplished a lot in her lifetime! I guess it goes to show that when you follow your passions and don’t give up, you can accomplish anything!

    Reply
  10. Zarina

    What a great and inspirational story!
    What a woman!
    I admire those women who despite their times managed to follow their passion. Given the time where she lived, it was a huge strength and courage from her and we all have something to learn.
    I would definitely agree with you that is a true role model to us.
    Thank you for such a wonderful post!
    Zarina

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Zarina
      Susan was certainly in every sense of the term a wonderful role model. She faced challenges and controversy head on and did all she could to help her people. It does not get better than that 🙂

      Reply
  11. Johnathan Tarter

    Hey Emily
    This is a very strong and accomplished woman you have written about! She is definitely a great role model and is someone I highly admire! Thank you for sharing information about this amazing woman! Overcoming highly arduous obstacles like she has is extremely inspiring to me and many others! 🙂

    Reply
  12. Rachel

    What an incredible woman! I have never heard of Susan before, but her story is one that I will probably be sharing in the future. It is amazing to think of such a driven, passionate woman who cared for all people, regardless of race, status or background. More of us need to be like Susan. Great article, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  13. Kristie

    Wow! What an inspirational woman. We should all aspire to be at her level.It is amazing how she went to school on the reservation and then in the white man’s school. Becoming a doctor is a great accomplishment, but doing it while facing great adversity is even more amazing. Plus being a woman and Native American, I am sure, meant things were stacked against her. Working a full time job while raising a family back then must have been tough. SHe is one amazing lady! Thanks for sharing her story.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Kristie!
      thanks for taking the time to read Susan’s story. I agree that she was a wonderful woman and an inspiring role model. She faced such adversity but took it all in stride and kept on going!

      Reply
  14. Matthew

    She is really one heck of a role model indeed! Born in hard times yet worked hard and with determination to help her own people despite of all hurdles and obstacles! It must have been very hard for her, not only during her childhood but also when she worked hard and even using her very own salary to buy medical supplies to treat her patients, yet instead of giving up she worked even harder to do everything she can to better the lives of her community. She truly is an inspirational role model!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Oh I agree!!!
      Being a woman, first, Native American, second, and in a period of poverty, third. And caring for an alcoholic husband! She had a very big heart and more determination than anyone I know 🙂

      Reply
  15. Christian

    What a strong and courageous woman Susan was. I had no idea that the first female physician was a Native American. What a testament to their people! It’s also interesting that she attended Hampton which is in the state in which I currently reside. I wish there was more of an effort to expose these peoples for the shining stars that they are.

    I think that you are doing all Native Americans a great service by talking about them the way you are. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      thanks Christian!!
      Susan was one hell of a courageous woman indeed! I do not think that the first female medical doctor was Native American but Susan was the first Native American medical doctor. Don’t know if that makes sense. I am glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Reply

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