American Literature

Book Reviews Dr Bessie by Alfred Rehwinkel

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"Book Reviews Dr Bessie by Alfred Rehwinkel"
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Dr. Bessie's father was a physician. She also aspired to be one. Her brief description of the curriculum in medical school was interesting. Yes, Gray's anatomy was in use over 100 years ago. She talked of accumulating anatomical knowledge bit by bit. In time she could see the body as sort of a map, even into her old age. When Dr. Bessie practiced medicine over 100 years ago, women doctors were not readily accepted. She hung out her shingle, but people were not interested. Eventually she did establish a practice in Iowa. During the time she had her practice in Iowa, her nieces became orphaned, so Dr. Bessie took them in. Then the panic of 1907 hit and basically she was left with the clothes on her back.

Fortunately for her someone loaned her some money and there was a homesteading opportunity for her in Carpenter, Wyoming. The homesteader's life was not exactly the easiest. The houses were apparently more like huts or shacks. She did not have a modern hospital. Her home served as her hospital. Dr. Bessie had to make her rounds on horseback or horse and buggy. They did not have SUV's back the. She did not access to the latest medical equipment. She stated that she felt like a knight sent out to battle a dragon with rusty weapons.

The book gave some interesting insights into homesteading life. The two most important books to the homesteader were the Bible and the Sears catalog. This writer suspects not too many people have an interest in Sears or its catalog nowadays. But remember there was no internet back then. The catalog brought a taste of the big city to the rural community. There also was no television, so to entertain themselves they would have debates. People from neighboring communities would visit their town and they would visit the neighboring communities.. Debates helped people to sharpen their reasoning skills.

The book is not simply about Dr. Bessie. It also tells the story of how she met her husband Alfred Rehwinkel. Like Dr. Bessie he was forced out of his normal environment. He lost the election for student body president at the seminary in St. Louis, so he decided to do a vicarage in Wyoming. One day while doing his rounds, his horse ran his leg against some barbed wire. So he needed to be sewn up. She was impressed at how well he had held up when she was sewing him up. She had thought that preachers were not manly and she would never marry a preacher. Famous last words.

The marriage lasted for several decades and took them to Canada, Kansas and finally to the seminary in St. Louis Missouri. This writer had a chance to talk to people who knew the Rehwinkels. They were apparently a happy couple. Dr. Rehwinkel, in his book The Flood, gave acknowledgement to his wife's help, in the writing of the book.

The book is available from

More about this author: Guy Takamatsu

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