How One Gutsy Woman Worked Alone To Save Portland From the Bubonic Plague In 1907

In 1907 The United States was threatened by the Bubonic Plague. Ignorance and discrimination against Asians made Americans think that plague was being caused foreigners. It took one smart but determined woman to show them the real picture, the filth that engulfed cities and where the plague was coming from. Esther Pohl Lovejoy is one of America’s most famous women who in spite of living in a time before women even had voting rights in the US ended up saving over 200,000 people.

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1From an early age, she knew what she wanted to do in life besides being from a poor family

Esther Pohl Lovejoy was born Esther Clayton in Washington State in 1869. Hers was a difficult upbringing in a family plagued with financial issues. The family moved to Oregon where Esther received some incredible insight of her own that would go on to define her destiny. Witnessing a midwife deliver her little sister, Esther was completely impressed and made up her mind that she wanted to pursue medicine. She wouldn’t be someone ordinary but someone who would make a difference to society.

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2She graduated from medical school with top honors

Esther was enrolled in Medical School in the University of Oregon in 1894 and graduated after a four-year course in obstetrics and women’s health. She stood first at the top of her class according to a report in Changing the Face of Medicine. Incidentally, Esther became the second woman to graduate from the University of Oregon Medical School but the first to practice medicine. In college, she met fellow student Emil Pohl whom she married after graduation.

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3The Alaska gold rush was tempting

It was the time of the Gold Rush in Alaska and encouraged by her brothers, Esther and Emil moved to the goldfields of Klondike. Unfortunately, one of her brothers was murdered in 1899 prompting Esther to return to Portland to get back on track with her medical career. Her Husband remained in Alaska whom she visited frequently till Emil passed away in 1911.

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4She studied medicine in Europe

After the demise of her husband, Esther moved to Vienna, Berlin and Paris where she pursued further medical studies. In 1912, she then remarried George Lovejoy a Portland Businessman but their marriage was short-lived. After 7 years of marriage, the couple divorced. During this time, Esther was engaged in several important events. She helped establish the American Women’s Hospital and even authored several medical books.

Image Source: oregonencyclopedia.org

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