Friday, March 18, 2016

Dr. Eliza H. Root

The role of Scots as physicians is pretty amazing. Between 1750 and 1850, no less than 10,000 physicians obtained degrees from Scottish universities. Many of these came to America and had a tremendous influence on their communities. Some Americans traveled to Scotland to obtain their medical education. Scots were also instrumental in establishing many medical teaching schools.

One of the early physicians of colonial times was Dr. Gustavus Brown (1689-1762). He was born in Dalkeith, Scotland. His son, Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown was educated at the University of Edinburgh. His son, Dr. Gustavus Brown attended President George Washington during his last illness. George Fraser Black in his book “Scotland’s Mark on America” lists many of these early physicians.

In the early days of Chicago’s medical history the city was not able to easily obtain medical supplies. They had to order from eastern cities and graft was rampant. “All too often the city was unable to buy essential medical supplies yet some bills for drugs concealed 48 cases of beer, 10 barrels of whiskey, 20,000 cigars and other liquors and wines under the appellation of sundry drugs.” (Taken from “Medicine in Chicago” by Thomas Neville Bonner.)

In 1908, ten thousand doctors descended upon Chicago for the convention of the American Medical Association. If you count wives and children the number may have reached 14,000.

One of the early female physicians in Chicago was Eliza H. Root. She was born on February 7, 1846, in Mayfield Township, DeKalb County, Illinois. Her father, Eliza H. Dick, came to America from Scotland in 1842.

On March 1, 1864, she married Jerome Root of DeKalb. They had one son, J. Sherman Root. In 1879 the family moved to Chicago where they remained until the death of her husband in 1914. Her office was 489 W. Monroe in Chicago. Dr. Root graduated from the Chicago Women’s Medical College and practiced medicine in Chicago for thirty years. They lived at 1414 W. Monroe in Chicago. After her husband’s death she moved to Sycamore, Illinois, where her sister lived.

Very involved in the Medical School of Northwestern University and the Woman’s Medical College of Chicago, Dr. Root once served as Dean of the college. She was a member of the Executive Committee and served as its secretary. She was also editor-in-chief of the Woman’s Medical Journal. The records of the Woman’s Medical College are at Northwestern University. She was a strong advocate for women in the medical field and she helped blaze a trail for those who followed. She died at her home in Sycamore, Illinois on Saturday, June 12, 1926 at the age of 80.

Our Society has had three physicians who served as President: Dr. John Macalister (1867); Dr. John A. McGill (1919-1921) and Dr. William Ferguson Dickson (1922-1924).

Wayne Rethford, Past President
Illinois St. Andrew Society


The Scottish American History Club will meet again on May 7, 2016 at 10 a.m. We haven’t met for awhile so I hope to see many of you there. It’s also the birthday meeting. If you have had a recent birthday, please join us for cake, scones, coffee or tea.

Albert H. Beveridge, who lives in Augusta, Georgia, has donated his great grandmother’s wedding dress to the museum. Mary Anne McCleery married John C. Beveridge in Somonauk, Illinois on January 10, 1865. We will display the dress on May 7 as well see a power-point presentation about the Scottish community in Somonauk. Reservations are not necessary but helpful in planning. Please call 708.408.5591.