On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree - becoming the first Native American doctor in US history. She earned her degree 31 years before women could vote and 35 years before Indians could become citizens in their own country.
By age 26, this fragile but indomitable Indian woman became the doctor to her tribe. Overnight, she acquired 1,244 patients scattered across 1,350 square miles of rolling countryside with few roads. Her patients often were desperately poor and desperately sick with tuberculosis, small pox, measles, and influenza, with their families scattered miles apart, and whose last hope was a young woman who spoke their language and knew their customs.
This is the story of an Indian woman who effectively became the chief of an entrenched patriarchal tribe, the story of a woman who crashed through thick walls of ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice and then spent the rest of her life using a unique bicultural identity to improve the lot of her people - physically, emotionally, politically, and spiritually.
A Warrior of the People is the moving biography of Susan La Flesche's inspirational life, the subject of the PBS documentary Medicine Woman, and it will finally shine a light on her numerous accomplishments.
©2016 Joe Starita (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I was listening to the Nebraska Educational Television (NET) podcast from the Lincoln City Library. They were interviewing, Joe Starita a professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln campus, about his new book “A Warrior of the People”. I was so intrigued I rushed over to Audible and bought the book in audiobook format.
In the 1800s women were considered unfit to be physicians. Also in the 1800s prejudice of Native Americans was extreme. Can you image what Susan La Flesche, the daughter of an Omaha Tribal Chief, had to overcome to graduate from medical school and become the United States’ first Native American female physician?
Starita covered her life from the Tribal Lands in Nebraska to private schools on the East coast then back to Nebraska to care for her tribe. She was actually born in a Tepee. She had to fight not only ethnic and gender prejudice but language, financial hurdles and all her life the government bureaucracy. The Omaha was a progressive tribe that valued the thoughts and opinions of women. Professor Starita has studied the Omaha and written extensively about them. Susan’s siblings were also trail blazers. Her sister Susette (Bright Eyes) was a famous spokeswoman for the Indian Civil Rights and her brother was the county’s first Native American ethnographer. Susan was the physician for the Omaha tribe but also found time to marry and have children. Susan spoke four languages: English, French, Omaha and Ponca. La Flesche died at age 50 of bone cancer.
The book is well written and meticulously researched. I found the story of La Flesche fascinating. Her courage and determination to help her tribe was inspiring. I found the section about her life on the East coast and medical school most interesting. I enjoy reading about people that broke barriers and overcame enormous odds to achieve their goals. I have come across some interesting author interviews about books that I heard about nowhere else except on the NET book review podcast.
Carrington MacDuffie did an excellent job narrating the book. MacDuffie is a singer/songwriter, voice over artist and a multi-award winning audiobook narrator.
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