Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Dr. Emma Culbertson, 1854-1920
By Julia Wiener, student.
Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Dr. Emma Valeria Pintard Bicknell Culbertson was born December 2, 1854 in New Albany, Indiana to John Craighead Culbertson and Mary Pintard Bicknell Culbertson. There seem to be no records indicating that she married. She lived and was close with her colleague Dr. Mary A. Smith, but it is unclear if this was a romantic or professional relationship. She died January 8, 1920 and was buried in Santa Barbara, California.
Dr. Culbertson graduated in 1877 from Vassar College and in 1881 from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1883, she began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston, where she later became a senior surgeon. In 1888, Dr. Culbertson became the first woman appointed to the American Academy of Medicine and became its vice president in 1896. She was a councilor on the Medical Women's National Association. In 1917, she joined the General Medical Board of the Council of National Defense, working with the government to increase the number of female doctors. Throughout her life, she worked to make room for more women in medicine and encouraged young women to pursue medical professions. In an article written for The Vassar Miscellany, Dr. Culbertson outlines how to decide if medicine is the right path for you and how to be best prepared. She wants those who go into the field to be ready as capable physicians, thereby answering the "question of woman's fitness for medicine (Culbertson, "The Best Preparation for a Woman Physician." The Vassar Miscellany.)"
Dr. Culbertson belonged to several suffrage associations, such as the Massachusetts Women Suffrage Association, the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government, and the College Equal Suffrage League. She spoke on behalf of Vassar College at these groups' meetings and held teas for these suffrage associations. At a meeting for the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government, she explained her views on suffrage and its place within larger social movements. She described the debt she feels for "the great help that individual suffragists gave to the New England Hospital [for Women and Children] in the early days." Dr. Culbertson believed that suffrage was important as only one part in "a tide of progress" and "world-wide movement for equal rights" and that "industrial opportunities" and "higher education" were equally or even more important ("Debt to Pioneers." The Woman's Journal).
American Academy of Medicine. Bulletin of the American Academy of Medicine. vol. 5, 1900-1902, pp. 749-751. Hathi Trust Digital Library, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044103052163;view=1up;seq=759, March 4, 2017.
"Contemporary Notes." Vassar Quarterly, Vol. 5, Num. 3, May 1, 1920, pp. 213. Vassar College Libraries, http://newspaperarchive.vassar.edu/cgi-bin/vassar?a=d&d=vq19200501-01.2.38&srpos=3&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-culbertson------, March 4, 2017.
Culbertson, Emma B. "The Best Preparation for a Woman Physician." Vassar Miscellany, Vol. 25, Num. 7, April 1, 1896, pp. 321-23. Vassar College Libraries, http://newspaperarchive.vassar.edu/cgi-bin/vassar?a=d&d=literary18960401-01.2.8&srpos=18&e=-------en-20--1--txt-txIN-culbertson------, March 4, 2017.
"Debt to Pioneers." Woman's Journal, 30 Mar. 1907. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, tinyurl.galegroup.com/tinyurl/4UXPf8. Accessed 5 Mar. 2017.
Leonard, John William. Woman's Who's Who in America: a Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915. New York, The American Commonwealth Company, 1914.
Maud Wood Park Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1870-1960; Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government committee reports, Jan 01, 1907 - Dec 31, 1919, WRC, folder Pa- 002690-037-0501. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Maud Wood Park Papers in the Woman's Rights Collection, 1870-1960; College Equal Suffrage League reports and minutes Jan 01, 1898 - Dec 31, 1920. WRC, folder Pa- 002690-041-0351. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
"Obituary 6 -- no Title." Boston Daily Globe, Jan 11 1920, p. 16
The Woman's Medical Journal, Vol. 27, Num. 10, October 1917, pp. vi, 216-217. Drexel University College of Medicine Archives and Special Collections, http://xdl.drexelmed.edu/viewer.php?object_id=2970&selected_segment=6&t=womanmd, March 4, 2017.