“The Right to Medicine” Inspired by Howe-Waffle House

Santa Ana, 1901

The men in hats burst through the door without knocking.

“What is the meaning of this?” She exclaimed, shocked, dropping her supplies she was cleaning.

“Mrs. Howe, we are from the County Board of Health and Medicine. You’re going to have to come with us,” threatened the tallest man.

Dr. Howe looked at them, in her home, in her office. “Whatever for? I’ve done nothing wrong.”

The tallest man pulled out a warrant from his coat pocket, “For practicing illegal medicine in the County of Orange.”

“I have my medical license and I do not deal in illegal medicine.”

“Mrs. Howe, if you’ll just come with us…” said a shorter man.

“It’s Dr. Howe, if you don’t mind, gentlemen.”

The men exchanged looks, puzzled by her audacity. Dr. Howe picked up her medical tools and continued to clean them, ignoring the authorities’ presence in her home.

The tall one spoke up again. “Dr. Howe, we feel it best if you would stop your illegal practices and let men of medicine take it from here. You’re to report to the courthouse on the morrow to discuss the status of your position and your license.”

She stopped and looked at them. “I will not report to the courthouse because I have done no such thing. You have come into my home, now please leave and let me continue my work.”

“Doctor, some citizens question your medical ability seeing as most physicians in the county are men, so—”

“This is about my womanhood? Gentlemen, my license to practice medicine is displayed right on that wall if you would care to examine it. I have nothing to hide and I have every right to practice my methods, same as any other physician.”

The men paused. “You’re license may be revoked if you don’t come with us. Your current status as a physician will be compromised if you don’t comply.”

She stopped and looked around her office. Her life’s work was displayed in this very room. She took countless women into her home to deliver their children. She had treated children and adults alike for influenza. She had traveled great lengths by horse and carriage to retreat ointments, alcohols, and other supplies for her collection. Hours and money spent on helping the sick. How could it all be for nothing? How could she let these men strip her of her title on grounds of discrimination?

Dr. Howe approached the men in her parlor. The men who threatened her under her own roof. There was no need to call for her husband to come down, no need to shed tears or yell. She stared right into the eyes of the tallest man, whose lips tightened at her approach.

“Gentlemen. I’ll see you at the courthouse tomorrow.”

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2 thoughts on ““The Right to Medicine” Inspired by Howe-Waffle House

  1. Pingback: Howe-Waffle House & Architectural Tour | The Captured Word

  2. Lauren, You have a way of writing that captures my imagination! Having recently moved to Santa Ana, I’m still finding my way around, but will definitely check out the locations you described with such eloquent word-pictures. Reading about the woman doctor made me realize how tough women needed to be in those days, and how far we’ve come (I have a woman doctor). Thanks for waking up a part of me that has been sleeping!

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