October 1988

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Lydia Folger Fowler


Marion Sauerbier

Gideon and Eunice Folger's daughter, Lydia, was born in 1822. Lorenzo Niles Fowler met her in 1844 when he visited her uncle Walter, an eccentric and famous astronomer-navigator on Nantucket. He was immediately taken by her studious yet affable personality. Lorenzo lost no time in courting this marvelous young woman and they were wed on September 19, 1844, for a particularly happy and productive marriage.

Their first daughter, Amelia, was born in 1846, and Loretta, their second, was born a couple of months after her mother received a medical degree from the Central Medical College in 1850 and became the second woman doctor in this country . That same year Lydia became the first woman medical professor in this country when she was appointed principal of the female department and demonstrator of anatomy to the female medical students of her alma mater..

Following her teaching she had a private practice in New York. In addition she associated herself with women's rights proponents as the secretary to several of their conventions. She was also a temperance advocate and was the presiding officer at the Women's Grand Temperance Demonstration held in Metropolitan Hall. She travelled and lectured with her husband in this country and Canada. In 1860 they went to England for an extended and very successful lecture tour.

Lydia was raising her daughters, three now, but had time for a trip to Italy, a winter of medical studies in Paris, and even a three-month period in charge of the obstetrical department of a hospital in London. They came back to the United States and then in 1863 returned to live in England and open an office there on Fleet Street.

Always involved in helpful work, she was visiting poor families for their church when she died at 56 in 1879. Her death was a terrible blow for Lorenzo but his three daughters rallied to his aid and Jessie returned to America with him.

© 1988, Marion Sauerbier
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