Copyright© 2020 by UtIdArWa
“Miss Barrow, before we go any further, let me congratulate you on achieving your doctorate. As the first female graduate of this institution, your name will be forever memorialized. Now that having been said, what are your plans.”
This was from the college president. A white-haired man that tried very hard to disguise his growing bald spot while ignoring his spreading paunch. He had been reluctant to admit me six years earlier when I applied for medical school. His stated position was that outside of nursing and midwifery, women had no place in the medical profession, let alone higher education. But pressure from My father and the political machine he controlled had forced the dean to change his opinion.
Standing in front of his massive desk, I was dressed in a demure dark blue ankle-length dress, a simple single strand of pearls around my neck. And a stylish cameo broach at the center of My neckline. “Well, dean, I intended to continue and specialize in surgery. But it’s my understanding that my application for a surgical fellowship will be turned down.”
“That is correct, Miss Barrow. At this time, all of the seats in that school have been filled. You would have to wait until something came open before you could be considered, let alone accepted. Might I suggest as an alternate something more appropriate, say obstetrics or gynecology? Something where you would have more success?”
“President Thompson, we have had this conversation before. I don’t want to study the ‘women’s fields as you put it. My goal is a surgical fellowship.”
“That’s unfortunate because it isn’t going to happen at this institution. I should also inform you that you will not be allowed to stand with your classmates at graduation because of threats of violence. I can give you your diploma and degree certificate right now. But you will not be allowed on the grounds during the graduation.” he raised his hand and beckoned to someone outside of his office.
“This is Provost McCain. He will escort you to your dorm and assist you in packing your belongings. A cartage company has been hired to transport your goods anywhere in the city you desire. However, outside of the Boston city limits, it is your responsibility. You are excused, Miss Barrow, and good luck.” he then turned to the Provost, “You know what needs to be done.” and then turned entirely away from me.
I stood there for a moment until McCain touched my elbow. “Please, Miss, I don’t want no trouble. It’s best we get this over with as quickly and quietly as possible.”
I was escorted to her dorm. Or at least what had been designated my dorm. In reality, it was the housing space for a junior bachelor professor. At the start of my senior year, it had been determined that my study hours were a distraction to the other female students. The distraction involved inconvenient questions concerning other women going into the medical field.
As a solution, I was moved into the bachelor apartment for the remainder of the school year.
Outside of the building was a high sided horse-drawn wagon and two burly men. Between Myself, the Provost, and the two movers, my property was quickly loaded, and I was escorted from the campus.
During the loading process, I decided to place my belongings into storage with the Kingston Brothers moving and storage company. These were the two movers that assisted me in vacating what had been my home for the past two years.
At a loss about what to do next, I took lodgings in an upscale boarding house with a good reputation. The first thing after settling in was to notify the family. Daddy would be thrilled and demand I come home immediately. Preferably to find a decent husband and put all this medical fol-do-rol behind me. Mother, too, would, in a less demanding way, suggest I come home. Take some time off and find my way in life. Again, a husband and children would be prominent in mother’s plan. And of course, my brothers would laugh and repeat their standard ‘We told you so.’
I knew there was no avoiding notifying the family. After all, daddy had expended serious resources, both financial and the calling in of political favors. He had a right to know what was happening in my life.
It was while I was writing that I started getting mad. While the President had been unfair, he was acting in what he considered an appropriate manner. The same could be said for my father and brothers. But damn it, I had been serious in achieving this goal. And by gosh, I needed to see it through to the next level. And that was to set up My own medical practice. I had the qualifications to be a general practitioner, an MD. Nothing was going to stop me.
That evening, after dinner, I gathered together all of the local papers and some of the larger publications from outside of Boston. As I read the want ads and then the medical advertisements, I became more and more discouraged. There was little available in the New England area. It was while I was in the boarding house-sitting room that I noticed a middle-aged gentleman watching me.
He wasn’t very noteworthy. Average height and weight. Greying, brown hair. What set him apart from all others was the angry red scar that ran from the center of his forehead to his lower left jar, just barely missing the eye. The scar wasn’t new. In My professional opinion, it was maybe five or six years old. While the scar was an attention-getter in any case. I was more impressed by his smile. It was a genuine smile. One that began on his lips and continued up the corners of his mouth. Resting in his glittering eyes.
The gentleman stood and walked over to me. “Dr. Barrow, may I introduce myself? I am Dr. Thaddeus Paulson. And I would like to offer you a job.”
For the next several hours, Dr. Paulson explained his position. He was the medical recruiter for an organization that had been established after the late war. His mission was to locate medical personnel that would be willing to move to the west and join his organization. The work would be varied and, quite frankly, dangerous at times. But I would be welcomed as the professional I was and that I wouldn’t be limited in her practice.
“Why me, Dr.? What made you look for and try to recruit me?”
“Dr. We have been watching this and other medical colleges. We need medical professionals. A good portion of our organization have suffered injuries during the war and need continuing care. Our primary mission has been that anyone traumatized by the war, military or civilian, union or confederate, are welcome in our ranks, without prejudice. It was your do or die and damn the details attitude that first attracted me to you. There is a rather exclusive men-only club in this town. Well, more than one, but for this discussion, this club counts your university President as one of its members. As well as several others on the college staff. While I was slowly separating that fool from his money during card games, I first learned of you. Over the last three years, I have been watching your progress. Now before you get a swelled ego, I’ve also been watching others’ progress in various other fields of study. If you decline our offer, that’s ok. We have other candidates.”
“Now, to get to the meat of the matter. What we are offering is a position as a medical officer. Specifically, you will start with the assumed rank and pay of a captain. This isn’t a government organization. We are independent and outside of the government. However, we find it convenient to use military terminology. Some of our members need that structure in their lives. You will be provided with first-class transportation to our base of operations in Wilkins, Nevada. I’ll warn you right now first-class transportation is a bit of a joke. You will indeed enjoy the travel up to St. Louis. But after that, things get a bit rough. I recommend you get sturdy hard-wearing clothing. I strongly recommend that after St. Louis, you wear men’s clothing. Sturdy canvas or the new denim pants. Cotton long-sleeved shirts. I’d also include long-handled underwear. It gets pretty cold at night, and petticoats won’t do the job.”
“When you get to Wilkins, you’ll travel further to the Ruis Hacienda. That is our home. I’ll give you a book on the Hacienda and Wilkins before you leave. Included is a history of the Regiment. That’s what we call ourselves, by the way. A biography of Colonel Anderson, our de facto leader. He’s a nice guy. I think you’ll like him. There’ll also be a breakdown of our chain of command. Being medical staff puts you in a unique position. You will be the bridge between the civilian and military sides of the Regiment. You’ll also be our ambassador to the folks outside our gates. You see, one of our services is free medical care for all that need it. Without prejudice or partiality.”
“I should also tell you that we live in a wild country. The law is pretty much limited to the cities sometimes. However, the Regiment has also adopted a position of being the strong arm of justice within our reach. We don’t judge. We don’t enforce the law. But we will and do actively seek out and bring outlaws to justice. We leave the enforcement and administration of justice to others. Don’t get me wrong. We aren’t vigilantes. But we actively help out the limited law enforcement folks.”
“Dr. Paulson, you’ve given me a lot to consider. Can I please have a day or two to think about it?”
“Sure, Dr., You take all the time you need.” he handed me a card. On one side was Dr. Paulson’s contact information. On the opposite was the simple message ‘the Regiment, Wilkins Nevada.’ “When you make a decision, get ahold of me. Or wire the Regiment direct. The folks in Wilkins will know who you want.”
With that, Dr.’s Paulson and I rose and shook hands.
The following morning, I rewrote my letter to the family.
“Dear Mommy and Daddy;”
“I’m a doctor, and I’m going to Nevada.”
“More to follow.”