Doctor Palgrave…

I remember the old joke, that wasn’t really a joke, more of a riddle – 

A father and his son are in a car accident. The father dies instantly, and the son is taken to the nearest hospital. The doctor comes in and exlaims “I can’t operate on this boy.”
“Why not?” the nurse asks.
“Because he’s my son,” the doctor responds.
How is this possible?

Well the answer, of course, is because it was the boy’s mother.

I bet you thought I was going to talk about Dr. Richard Palgrave.


Well, it is the best image I could find. Even though it is earlier that the 1600s it is still appropriate.

While investigating the Palgrave family in Massachusetts, I can across an interesting entry in a TAG1 article regarding his daughter Sarah.


Sarah was the second youngest daughter of Richard and his wife Ann, She was born about 1621. When she was about 27 years old she married Doctor John Alcock, a 1646 graduate of Harvard. She only lived to be about 44 years of age, but in those 44 years, she had devoted herself to following in her father’s footsteps and became a physician, although most likely not officially sanctioned as such. According to her death entry in the Roxbury church records she was skilled in medicine and surgery.

It is doubtful that she had any formal schooling, because women weren’t allowed to attend any medical schools. Her father, and possibly her husband, are mostly like the ones who taught her everything she needed to know. Women at this time provided health services that consisted mostly of sick- and wet-nursing, midwifery, minor surgery and general physicals. Of course, even then, men were doing their best to butt into the business of birthing babies, and other female related health concerns by dismissing the expertise of female medical practitioners and midwives in publications, calling their methods unscientific, consisting of nothing but folk medicine.

Thankfully those days have changed.

I was quite thrilled to find this information about a female ancestor. Here’s one who wasn’t content to just sit at home and raise the babies, she wanted to make a difference in the world. Cool.


1 The American Genealogist, volume 18, page 209, “Dr. Richard Palgrave and his family.”


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