Saturday, August 8, 2009

Etola Robinson, Aug 14, 1900

The following letter describes a life changing event for Toley. It is a very long letter but it's description of health care, by and for women in 1900 makes it well worth reading through.












Epwerth Hospittle: South Bend Ind.

August 14th 1900:

My Dearest Friend:

I though I would write you one more letter it may be the last one I shall ever be able to write you but if it is remember how much I love you and how much I should like to see you.

while I was sick in my rooms I used to think what a rest it would be to have Anna come in a little while

I expect it was a great surprise to you to hear that I was here as it was for me to come I thought I was so well this summmer. since last August those bad spells I used to have have been less frequent 9 week, 6 weeks and once three month apart and the

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pane was not so severe nor the discharge so much and I thought I was geting through nicely. the week after I was home it commenced about the middle of the week but not bad I cepet wright on going to the shop every day it cept on the rest of that week and the next then it quit and sunday I took a bath and was all wright untill tuesday when it came again I kept on working untill Friday I had to stay home in the morning because of my heart you know how it acts some times well I went back to work after dinner and worked saturday but monday morning I could not go. It worried me because me expected to get the work just about out that week and then were going to have

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a rest and I knew she needed me. well I staid home untill Thursday when I seemed a little better and went back. worked that day but Friday morning could not go back. I had been working on a silk ___ that was tucked in clusters length wise and had three rows of velvetribon in each space between the tucks making about 60 yards ribbon was partly basted on and I knew it could be finished away from the shop as soon as it should be ___ on once more so I sent her a note saying I would finish it if she would send it to me. she sent it at noon and I worked on it untill half past nine that night and untill five the next dat to get it done.

Th__ the six O'Clock bell are just ringing you see I wake up earlier than I used to.

Well sunday morning I felt so bad that I had them telephone for the Dr. but she was out and her Mother 81 years old failed to under stand where to come

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the service is poor any way and half the time you have to guess at what is said and in the after noon I felt so much better that I would not let them send again but Monday morning I boarded the st. car and went to see her (you see I have a Lady Dr. Miss Dr. Thomas and she is fine) she questioned me closely and got all my simptoms and among the rest I told her my gneral helth was good except that one thing unless it was my heart and I thought the trouble I had these was only sympithetic she gave me some medicen to take to stop the hemorage said she thought it was a polapus groath which could be easely removed and when it was stoped I should come back and she would examen me and see what the matter was well I took the medican from 11 30 that day untill next morning and was no better so Amelia telephoned her and she said if I was no better at noon to let her know and she would come over so she came and found that

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the uteras is full of small tumers she thinks of about five or six years groth (about the length of time I have been having trouble you know) and that it would have to be removed or I was liable to these attacts anytime I ask her what the chances were of death if I had nothing done she said they were good from hemorage but not certain so you see that I was obliged to come and take the chances of removal for I have no time or money to waste in wating but even then I did not think I should come so soon but thursday morning I had a bad spell and they had to send for the Dr. about four O'Clock and as soon as she could leve me she husseled around and made all the arangements and I was here by 10 the Ambulance came for me and altho I knew Guy Bunker went with it I had not thought of it an it was as much of a suprise to me as to him I did not know him untill he told me who her was you know where

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my Bureau stands and the women were woring how they were to get the stretcher up there finely one of them asked him how he was going to get me down he said "I am going to carry her down in my arms" so he picked me up and carried me down put me on the stretcher and he and the driver picked it up carried it out and shuved it in to the Ambulance. he got in with me and cept the ___ of untill we arrived then he said "toley I believe I can carry you in easier than on the stretcher well I said you ought to know best so he picked me up brought me in and laied me on the bed. he has been in once to see me and wanted to come again but I was not presentable just then so they did not let him. Every Boddy is very Kind to me. I thought to have the operation wright away but when I got onto my feet that afternoon to go to the table for just a little work to stop the hemorage I fainted away and Dr. Meirer who is to perform it had

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to pick me up and carry me they gave me just a little Chloraphorm and en___ the lining of the uteras and Oh! it did hurt me so and it was another week before the hemorage stoped.

in the merne time she has been giving me stuff to get the Malesia out of me she said I was in a jondiced condition and I have not been able to sit up at all untill the last three or four days and now only a few minutes morning and evening.

The head nurse came in one day and informed me very seriously that "I must not loose my apetite as they could not alow it" but you can imagin how much efect that had on my stumic and I went on for days wating nothing but a little milk or suoe but now I am eating a little more and begin to fell hungry I expect that in a few days they will put me on the table for the final work and if I live through it

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as they seem to think I will, shall probily be out of here in two or three weeks Dr. told me monday morning that I had worried her more than any patient she had had for a long time and yesterday morning she said I looked the best she ever saw me (she never saw me untill I went to her for treatment) and she said I looked gastly that morning

Dr. Myers advizes curating the woom again and not removing it but that will not satisfy me if I live at all I want to be well and not live in dread of a return of the hemorage as my Dr. assures me threer will be danger of untill after the menstrell time is past for me. if I could have my choise it would be death that must come some time to each of us and I do not see amy thing I am needed here for. but as we can not have the choise I must take my chances.

now Anna I have written you a full

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account of my condition as I know it myself when I was home I expected to go back about this time for a longer visit but we never can tell. well I am glad I went then any way I had a good time and I like to think of it now. I shall write to Abb and Lib by this same Mail but not so much. Tell Tamerson there is a little boy four years old here is the same ward I am who can not walk and the prospect that he ever will is very small he has hep desease of corse he and I are good friends and then there is two tiny baby girls one of them was born hear since I came and the other was brought here saturday because it was sick it is much better now. tell her I am sorry that I can not have her to visit me this summer but maby she can come some time.

Give my love to Daniel and tell him to be shure and make as good a man of himself as I have always believed

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he would make.

Remember me to Frank when you write him. give my love to your Mother and Mrs. Carlile and tell Ashley I should like to see his hombly old fase once more.

Now Annie write me one of your nise newesy letters it goes me so much good to get. and now good by for this time. with my best love I am as ever your friend

Etoley Robinson


Wow! This letter really blew me away. Toley was only about 42 at the time of this letter. Clearly she was worried about the outcome of the surgery and wanted Anna to know how much she valued their friendship. I was very surprised at the amount of time she spent in the hospital. It was also very interesting to me that she refered to her doctor as Miss Dr. Thomas.

For more see:
Camfield Family Letters
Descendants of Sarah Ann Wisner
Michael Camfield


Robinson, Etola (South Bend, IN) to “Dear Friend”
[Anna Camfield Carlisle]. Letter. 14 August 1900. Digital Images 1-10.
Privately held by Apple, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,]
Snowville, New York. 2009.
[Carlisle Family, Box #1, Correspondence, 1900,
Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 2008.]

5 comments:

Becky said...

Apple, having just gone through surgery to remove a fibroid tumor (one, but very large) I can certainly sympathize with Etoley. Luckily I didn't have any bleeding though I did have a lot of pain. I'm sure it was nothing compared to what she went through. Also, I spent only four DAYS in the hospital, rather than WEEKS like she was going to have to do.

Transcribing letters can be tedious, especially having so many (you lucky dog!) but the time and effort is worth it - I'm sure I'm not the only one that enjoys reading them ;-)

Miriam said...

Apple, this letter surprises me on many levels: first that Toley even wrote about what was going on in her body (a taboo subject in those Victorian days); secondly, that she knew what was going on with her body (no doubt thanks to her physician); and thirdly, that there was a woman physician available to her. It would be fascinating to find out more about this Dr. Thomas. She would have had to have been unique in her community.

Great post...I enjoyed it immensely.

Patti Browning said...

I second the previous poster's comments about doing a bit of extra research on "Miss" Dr. Thomas! She sounds like an interesting and unique lady. Surely Toley felt comforted that she had a woman to look after her, especially given the nature of her condition.

I thoroughly enjoyed this post!

Tina said...

Wow! What an amazing letter! I am also surprised that she wrote about what was happening to her, especially since it was a "female" illness. Thank you so much for sharing your letters with us.

Tina :-)

Apple said...

I was surprised that she wrote about this all in such detail too but I suppose she thought Anna would be the only one to read it.

Martha V. Thomas graduated from Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital, Chicago,IL in 1896. Women were becoming more accepted as doctors at the very end of the 19th century but they certainly weren't the norm.

I'll see what else I can find on Dr. Thomas, Dr. Rosanna Russell (a cousin who graduated in 1900) and other women in medicine from this period.