1. Mabel Heath Palmer aka “The First Lady of Chiropractic”
If the name Palmer sounds familiar, you probably read it in our last blog. As Mabel Heath Palmer was the daughter in law of the father of Chiropractic; Dr. Daniel Palmer – the first doctor to perform a spinal adjustment and pave the way for our great profession and field of care to expand. Mabel attended and graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic in 1905 and became the first female chiropractor in history in 1905.
Much like her in-law and husband, she was an innovator in the field and authored the first anatomy textbook for chiropractic students as well as founded the first ever chiropractic sorority.
Additionally, she co-authored the famed Modernized Chiropractic, the first chiropractic textbook.
Also a graduate of Palmer, Sylva Ashworth aka The Grand Old Lady of Chiropractic,quickly began to bridge ideological divides in the chiropractic community and helped bring together conservative older practices with newfound sciences in studies. A paper accepted for publication in Chiropractic History, April, 1992 says “Dr. Ashworth is the only woman ever to serve as president of a national chiropractic professional association in the United States: the Universal Chiropractors’ Association in 1926.”
Her accomplishments didn’t stop there; “She was a founding member of the NCA (1930), the International College of Chiropractors (1938) and the Chiropractic Research Foundation (1944), ancestor of today’s Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research.”
Interestingly, the article also notes that around 1928 Sylva developed serious health issues including cystic tumors, heart problems, and diabetes. These issues were so severe that her prognosis was only living another 3-4 months. Upon the suggestion of her sister she went to see a chiropractor as a last resort, who began twice daily adjustments. Under his care, she experienced a thorough recovery, and became a believer in the chiropractic field – thereby devoting her life’s work to the advancement of the profession.
Fun fact: the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners’ Practice Analysis of Chiropractic 2020 found that the percent of women chiropractors in the segment of chiropractors under 30 is 53.2%. This far surpasses historical numbers in what was once a dominantly male profession.
But as we all know, this wasn’t always the case, and gender disparities have been present in this field (as in many others) for a very long time. So I say, all the more reason to give some special acknowledgement to those bad a** women that helped our field grow into a gender neutral practice.
Clearly, these women played a huge role in the development and ongoing growth existence of the chiropractic field. It’s disappointing that these names are not mentioned as often as the male names (in fact, there is NO mention of them in this article on the “History of Chiropractic.” However, I choose to look forward in hopes that this trend is ending and women are being given their rightful role in the field.
Chiropractic Economics tells us that at least half of all chiropractic students are women. This change isn’t just what’s fair, it’s also what’s necessary. This study found a higher mortality rate among women treated by male doctors, while women and male patients experienced similar results under the care of women doctors. This survey indicated that almost half of women polled preferred to have a female doctor. This may be due to women feeling more comfortable discussing intimate details with a women, or feeling that a women will better understand their body.
Whatever the case may be, we as women (and everyone else for that matter) SHOULD have the ability to choose who we want to seek medical advice from…especially if it could affect our outcomes. In other words, the chiropractic field, and the medical industry overall, NEEDS more women doctors. Not only to continue the mission for equality, but also to better care for our patients.
In conclusion, ladies, we need you, and we are thankful for you.
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