Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Dr. Inez Cecelia Philbrick, 1866-1966

By Paige Vogel
Iowa State University

Faculty Sponsor: Sarah Chase Crosby
Subject Librarian: Susan A. Vega Garcia

President of Nebraska Equal Suffrage Association

According to the website Find a Grave, Inez Cecelia Philbrick was born to Philetus and Malah Philbrick in Bloomington, Wisconsin on May 14, 1866. Very little is known about her childhood; however, she resurfaces in the 1887 yearbook of the University of Iowa, showing her 1886 graduation from the university with a bachelor's degree. Later, as shown in a 1916 alumnus publication from the Women's College of Pennsylvania, Philbrick received her M.D. in 1891 before moving to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she lived, unmarried, for most of her life practicing medicine. Along with this educational expertise, Dr. Inez Philbrick impacted the suffrage movement through her leadership skills and involvement.

Most of what Philbrick did as a feminist lies within her leadership skills. The NEGenWeb Project outlines her influence on many different organizations, including the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for Lincoln, Nebraska State Medical Society, Nebraska Association of Medical Women, Lincoln Medical Women's Club, Nebraska State and American Medical Associations, Social Welfare Society, Nebraska Equal Suffrage Association, Lincoln Equal Rights Association, and the City Library Board. The Find a Grave website notes that Philbrick led the Nebraska Equal Suffrage Association for four years as president, where she presumably led the women in her town to support women's suffrage.

Philbrick was a prominent member in not only the above groups, but also in suffrage movement activities. Ida Husted Harper specifically describes an important court case in her 1922 book, History of Woman Suffrage, where anti-suffragists had effectively stopped legislative action on a woman suffrage bill by producing many "signatures" on a petition against the proposed law. The account notes that Philbrick and many other suffragists sued this group, which ultimately revealed that the supposed "signatures" on this petition included dead men, men who thought the petition was to bring back alcohol, and other such tricks. Yhe petition was disallowed, resulting in a victory for the women's suffrage movement.

Along with her involvement in the suffrage movement, she had many chances to appear not only in several works on the history of medicine (such as Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine and Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950), but also in court. The first publication shows how Dr. Philbrick fought against marital abuse and demanded a law against prostitution. The second shows her insistence that obstetricians should be female. She is quoted in Brought to Bed: "The male obstetrician will someday be a vestigial remnant, and go the way of the appendix, wisdom teeth, hair, et cetera."

According to the Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, Iowa, her gravestone shows that she passed away at the age of one hundred on December 25, 1966.


"Burial Search." Oakland Cemetery. Accessed Oct. 1, 2017.

"Chapter XXVI: Nebraska." In History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920. Edited by Ida Husted Harper, 368-383. New York, NY: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922.

"Dr. Inez Cecelia Philbrick." Find a Grave. Accessed Oct. 1, 2017.

Leavitt, Walzer Judith. Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750-1950, 30th edition. Madison, New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. Page 112.

The Nebraskana Society. NEGen Web Project. Accessed Oct. 1, 2017.

Morantz-Sanchez, Regina. Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

State University of Iowa. Catalogue of the State University at Iowa City. University of Iowa, 1887.

Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Transactions of the Forty-First Annual Meeting of the Alumnae Association of Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1916.

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