Woman of the Century/Margaret Abigail Cleaves
MARGARET ABAGAIL CLEAVES. CLEAVES, Miss Margaret Abagail, doctor of medicine, born in Columbus City, Iowa., 25th November, 1848. Her father was of Dutch and English and her mother of Scotch and Irish ancestry, but by birth they were both Americans. Her father, Dr. John Trow Cleaves, was born in Yarmouth, Maine, in 1813, and her mother, Elizabeth Stronach, in Baltimore, in 1820. In 1843 they were married in Columbus City, where Dr. Cleaves practiced medicine until his death, which occurred in October, 1863. He was a man who took a deep interest in public affairs, and twice he was elected a member of the Iowa Legislature, first in 1852, and again in 1861. Margaret was the third of seven children. She inherited her father's taste for medical pursuits and as a child frequently accompanied him on his professional visits. Her education was obtained in the public schools and in the Iowa State University, but because of limited means she was unable to finish the collegiate course in the latter institution. After she was sixteen, she alternately attended and taught school for some years. In 1868 the family moved to Davenport, Iowa. There Margaret resolved to become a doctor instead of continuing a school teacher. Her choice of a profession was not regarded with favor by the various members of her family, who entertained the prevailing ideas concerning the limitations of woman's sphere, but her mind was made up, and in 1870 she began to read medicine and against their wishes entered the Medical Department of the Iowa State University. Their opposition did not continue long, for it was soon made manifest that her choice of a profession had been a wise one. In 1871 she entered the office of her preceptor, Dr. W. F. Peck, who was dean of the faculty and professor of surgery in the university. She was graduated 5th March. 1873, standing at the head of the class. Shortly after graduating, she was appointed second assistant physician in the State Hospital for the Insane, Mount Pleasant, Iowa. There she was a veritable pioneer, for up to that time only one other woman in the world had occupied the position of physician in a public insane asylum. She remained in the asylum for three years and then resigned her position to commence private practice in Davenport She was subsequently appointed one of the trustees of the asylum. While practicing medicine in Davenport, she became a member of the Scott County Medical Society, being the second woman to gain admission to that body. For several years she was the secretary of the society. She also joined the State Medical Society, where she was again the second woman to gain admission. She was the first woman to become a member of the Iowa and Illinois Central District Medical Association. During her residence in Davenport she was an active member of the Davenport Academy of Sciences. In 1879 the board of trustees of the State Asylum for the Insane chose her their delegate to the National Conference of Charities, which that year met in Chicago, Ill. In that conference she read a paper on "The Medical and Moral Care of Female Patients in Hospitals for the Insane." It attracted widespread attention, and was printed in a volume, "Lunacy in Many Lands," which was published by the Government of New South Wales. In June, 1880, she was appointed by the Governor of Iowa a Slate delegate to the National Conference of Charities in Cleveland, Ohio, and thus the distinction was conferred upon her of being the first female delegate from Iowa to that body. She reported for the State to the conference, and her report was subsequently incorporated in the Governor's annual message. That same year she was appointed physician-in-chief in the Female Department of the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital in Harrisburg. After three years of hard work, rendered all the more arduous by her conscientious devotion to the minutest details of her duties, Dr. Cleaves was compelled by failing health to resign her position. She went abroad in 18S3, remaining nearly two years, visiting insane hospitals in Scotland, England, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, everywhere receiving nattering courtesies from men of recognized eminence in the treatment of insanity. She witnessed operations in general hospitals in England, France and Germany, and in Paris she was for several months a regular attendant at lectures and clinics. After returning to the United Stales, she opened a private home for the reception of patients in Des Moines, Iowa, conducting also an office practice in connection with her other work. In March, 1885, she was appointed one of the examining committee of the Medical Department of the Iowa State University. It was the first honor of that kind bestowed on a woman by any standard medical school in the United States. In July 1886, she was sent as a delegate to the yearly meeting of the National Conference of Charities, which was held in St Paul, Minn. During her residence in Des Moines she was an active member of the Polk County Medical Society, of the Missouri Valley Medical Association and of the Iowa State Medical Association. Before all those bodies she read papers and she served the last-named body as chairman of obstetrics and gynaecology in the session of 1889. At that time she was the only woman who had received such an appointment Her work was not confined to medicine alone. She took a deep interest in all that pertains to the welfare and advancement of women. She organized the Des Moines Woman's Club and was its first president. Some time prior to that she had become a member of die Association for the Advancement of Women. Becoming interested in die subject of electro-therapeutics, she went to New York in the winter of 1887 and to Paris in the following summer, to prosecute her inquiries and investigation. After her return she continued to practice for a while in Des Moines, but in 1890 she retired from that field and went to New York, where she opened an office. She there joined the Medical Society of the County of New York, the American Electro-Therapeutic Association and the New York Women's Press Club. In the Post-Graduate Medical School, New York, she is now clinical assistant to the chair of electro-therapeutics. Since she took up her residence in New York, she has read papers before the Medical Society of Kings County, Brooklyn, the New York Medico-Legal Society, the American Electro-Therapeutic Association and the National Conference of Charities. Many of them have been published, and all of them are distinguished by painstaking research, clearness of statement and logical reasoning. Though a very busy woman, though her chosen fields of labor and study have taken her far away from the paths followed by most women, she has sacrificed none of those sweet, helpful and peculiarly womanly characteristics which endear her to her friends. She is a woman who combines in a most felicitous way gentleness of speech and manner with firmness of character. She has keen insight and quick sympathies, yet cool judgment.