Susan La Flesche Picotte
Susan, a youngest child, grew up on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska. Her father, Joseph La Flesche, (a.k.a. Iron Eye) died as the last recognized chief of the Omaha. Aware that American culture would soon overwhelm the Omaha people, he encouraged his children to attend western schools.
Susan attended the Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies in New Jersey, and Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Virginia. With financial help from the Women’s National Indian Association, she attended Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia in 1886. She completed the three year program in only two years, and graduated first in her class of thirty-six in 1889. After a one-year internship at Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Susan became a physician for the government school back on the Omaha reservation and the first Native woman to earn a medical degree. As the Reservation’s only doctor she cared for over a thousand people.
At the age of 29 Susan married Henry Picotte. They raised two sons. After her marriage, she resigned from her government position as physician, but continued to provide medical care to her neighbors. In 1913 Susan and her sons helped build the first non-government funded reservation hospital. The US later declared this hospital a National Historic Landmark. Throughout her life, Susan remained involved with public health issues and helped found the Thurston County Medical Association.
She suffered for many years and died at the age of 50 from a degenerative bone disease.