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Hidden History: Chemung County resident left a mark on the history of women’s healthcare

Local News

Women’s healthcare back in 1870 was not nearly as advanced as it is today. The book “Talks with my patients” by Dr. Rachel Gleason is proof of that. 

Dr Rachel Gleason lived in Chemung county back in the 1800s and was one of the first women’s health doctors and women’s health authors in the country. She was what we now call as a gynecologist. She traveled all around Chemung county giving lectures and training other women aspiring to be in the same profession. 

Back then, there was a lot that was still unknown about women’s bodies and their health; even by physicians. Dr. Gleason started writing a book to help women identify and remedy different ailments within their bodies that they had no idea about, such as menstruation or endometriosis.  

Although she was a doctor, medicine and research was not very advanced. Some advice she offered in her book was not always accurate or helpful. 

“A lot of the ailments that she describes are things that we still have today, the only difference is that it was 1870, so she had no clue what was causing it. The fact that she was writing about it and teaching women about their own bodies was really important in the day in age in which she was writing.” said museum archivist Rachel Dworkin. 

Even though some things in the book are not completely accurate, back then, this was all women had to begin to understand their bodies. Her book was one step in the right direction to helping women understand the unique things that made them who they are. 

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