Mary Bennett Ritter was a farmer’s daughter who in the 1880s defied all conventions to pursue her passion: to receive medical training and become a physician. Ritter’s memoir is a riveting account of her accomplishments and a revealing peek into an earlier era through her keen sense of observation, humor, savvy, and her courage to challenge gender norms. It is filled with adventures— house calls via horse and buggy rides through the dark streets of Berkeley; a spurned lover’s suicide; a near drowning at Pacific Grove Beach; one of the first automobile rides across rugged California dirt roads; intercontinental rail travel; and voyages to the Far East. As the story unfolds, readers encounter the movers and shakers of their times—University of California presidents and families of wealth and influence, including the Scrippses, and the Hearsts, and the Rockefellers.
Gesa Kirsch is a Professor of English at Bentley University. Her work in women’s studies and rhetorical studies is extensive; she has authored and co-authored three books and edited five others.