September is Women in Medicine Month

Prairie du Chien is Wisconsin’s second oldest city. But, did you know that Prairie du Chien had the very first woman physician in Wisconsin?
Each September, as part of Women in Medicine Month, the AMA honors influential women physician leaders. This year's theme, "Women in medicine: Innovators and leaders changing health care," reaffirms our commitment to increasing the influence of women physicians and advocating for women's health issues.
Marianne Labuche was, indeed an innovator. She used a flattened silver coin to cover a scalp wound.  What, you never heard or read that account in the latest medical journal?
During September the AMA Women's Physician Section (WPS) also honors physicians who have offered their time, wisdom and support to advance women in medicine.
Marianne Labuche, known to her patients as “Aunt Marianne” either treated most of her patients in her own home or spent days in the patient’s home. “Aunt Marianne’s daughter, Adelaide,  followed in her footsteps as a medical practitioner. She treated and cured a Prairie du Chien logger who was stabbed during a fight the punctured his lungs.  “Aunt Marianne's” Great grandson provided care for the early Gold Rush in California.  That’s inspirational.
“Aunt Marianne”was also noted as a “person of consequence” according to an 1856 pioneer writer who knew her in the nineteenth century(1).  Marianne Labuche was the first non-indigenous medical doctor to practice in Wisconsin (2).  Marianne was born before 1774 in “one of the villages below”(2), possibly in a village across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.  It is likely that the village’s name was Cahokia. Prior to 1720’2 slaves were brought to this village.  Given Mary Ann’s surname it seems that her father, Pierre LaBuche(3), was a French creole from Canada and her mother, Marianne, a slave, from whom she gained her knowledge of the healing art(2).
She had thirteen children by three husbands. And, she was the first person that was sent for by the sick and attended to each one regularly as their physician. Even after the U.S. Army provided a physician at Fort Crawford, civilians preferred “Aunt Marianne” as their doctor.
She also charged her patients for her services for giving them “device and yarb to drink”. Reports indicate that she was not modest at all about her charges. She took her pay in the produce of the area.
Marianne’s talents and her use of “Yarbs and drinks” were put to the test on June 26, 1827, when her baby granddaughter was scalped during an Indian attack. She covered her granddaughter's exposed brain with a silver plate hammered out of a silver coin.  In time, the skin covered the plate. She lived to be eighty years old.(4)
It is our pleasure to share details about an inspirational, person who mentored others to pursue medicine.

Randall Paske, President of the Mississippi River Sculpture Garden

(1) Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Lucy Murhpy
(2) French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous Women in the Making of the Pacific Northwest, Jean Barman
(4) Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing, and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin’s Past, Erika Janik