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Women Doctors


There are two doctors who were born in Pittsford, but never practiced here. These two were women ahead of their time.

Dr. Emma Barker Steyner

Dr. Emma Barker Steyner was the daughter of Lyman and Clarrissa Hopkins Barker, both members of pioneer families.

By the time little Emma who was born in March, 1860, turned twelve, she decided that she wanted to be a physician. She "practiced" on her dolls and about anyone who would stand still or play her little game. When she was twenty, she asked Dr. Doane, one of the practicing doctors in town, if she might study anatomy with him. Perhaps the good doctor had misgivings about a young woman entering the medical profession. He gave her so many pages of Grey's Anatomy for her first lesson in hopes she would consider the study of medicine way too hard and give it up. He was wrong. When she went back to recite her first lesson, she made no mistakes. As a result she studied with him and accompanied him on his visits to his patients for about two years.

After her preparatory study she entered The Hahnemann Medical College of Chicago. She finished her training and received her diploma in 1884. She opened her first office in Elba NY where she practiced for about three years. While living there, she met and married John Frederick Steyner, who had been a classmate in college. They left Elba and went to live and work in Olean, NY.

Later she took a post graduate course at Boston University and moved to Rochester, NY where she opened an office. I don't know if Dr. Steyner came with her or not.

In 1897, Emma went to Chicago and had an office in the Marshall Field Building, where she remained and practiced her medicine for thirty years. In the meantime, she and a friend, Miss Marshall developed a Camp Sanatorium at Twin Lake, Michigan which was very popular with disabled persons. The camp remained a fashionable site for a number of years. After Miss Marshall's death, Dr. Steyner spent the summer at the Michigan camp and the winters with her mother and sister in Williamson, NY. Emma Barker Steyner lived to the age of 85, leaving a brother and many nieces and nephews in the Rochester area.

Dr. Jane Sutherland Parkhurst

A second woman of Pittsford to become a physician was Dr. Jane Sutherland Parkhurst. The daughter of Isaac and Guelliamo Sutherland, she was a descendant of an early Pittsford family. Her grandparents, Ebenezer and Gertrude Sutherland came to Pittsford on a packet boat on the Erie Canal in 1825. The homestead was built on Monroe Ave very near Sutherland Street. Early maps of that area show that the Sutherland Farm extended all the way from what is now Jefferson Road to Monroe Avenue and west to the canal.

Jane Sutherland received her early education in Pittsford and went to New York Medical School in New York City. She was associated with the Vail Sanatorium in Enfield, CN for many years. After her marriage, she lived for a short time in Oregon and then moved to San Francisco, where she was again engaged in medical practice.

Dr. Parkhurst was one of a family of seven children and when she died in 1952 at age 85, she was survived by only one sister, Sarah of New York City. The whole family of Sutherlands made a very deep impression on our community of Pittsford and Greater Rochester. Dr. Jane Parkhurst had the distinction of being one of the earliest women to receive a license to practice medicine in the United States.

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