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Fatal Modesty

October 12, 2009

This week brought many fascinating pieces.  They were based more on manuscripts than last weeks, but were none-the-less vital pieces to the production of this exhibit.  The following Collections were navigated this week. 

The following are being considered for possibly inclusion in the Exhibit:

The first two collections in this week’s work were the John B. and Annie Alexander Papers.  The Alexander’s were a father-daughter pair of Mecklenburg doctors.  J.B. Alexander was a physician beginning prior to the Civil War, and served as a surgeon in the Confederate army.  As legend goes, when Annie was 14, her father came home troubled because one of his patients had just died.  While this was not uncommon in this time period, this lady was special.  She believed that the Victorian propriety of the time forbade her from examination by a male, thus excluding her examination at all.  By the time she overcame this belief, she was terminal.  Dr. Alexander decided that Annie would bridge this barrier and become a doctor, so that this propriety would no longer be life-threatening.  After years of study, Annie Alexander was the first licensed Medical Practitioner in the South. 


 Annie Alexander also kept patient records.  Special Collections retains the years 1888-1889, her first years as a doctor in Charlotte. 

 Next, I have been examining medical books of the time, especially those of Annie Alexander and other Charlotte doctors.  While, many of these books are written in language and contain pictures solely useful to someone fluent in anatomy and medical language, some are simple enough for everyday people to understand.  Others, such as the Daughters of Aesculapius by Alumnae and Students of Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia contains fascinating images, such as the one below. 


This is a picture of an all-female brain dissection at the same medical school that Annie Alexander attended. 

Finally, upon suggestion of a professor, I dove into the Louis Asbury Collection.  Asbury was a prominent local architect.  He worked primarily in the 20th century, but more importantly, he was the architect for the two of the major additions to Good Samaritan and St. Peter’s.  Looking through this extensive collection and with the help of special collections personnel, I found the architectural plans for the additions. 



I was also lucky enough to find another interesting anomaly in the J.B. Alexander Collection.  It is a journal of some type that is covered in Confederate money.  The Confederate economy was in such bad straits during the war that Confederate currency had very little worth.  Thus, while there is well over a hundred dollars glued onto this journal, even during the height of the Confederacy that would have been worth very little.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Heather Smith permalink
    November 12, 2009 2:37 pm

    In the Fall of 2007 I had the pleasure of cataloging Annie Alexander’s microscope as well as some photographs of her in her horse and buggy for the Charlotte Museum of History.

  2. Boyd Harris permalink
    November 17, 2009 8:09 pm

    The journal of Confederate money reminds me of certain stories from the era of Reconstruction. Although this is probably apocryphal, I have seen several stories in which outhouses were wallpapered in Confederate money after the war. Apparently, people found at least some use for their worthless money…..:) Love the blog, Kristin.

  3. November 19, 2009 11:26 am

    Great blog Kristen! I just found it today & have already learned about a number of resources at Special Collections that I’d love to know more about. I look forward to seeing your exhibit. As Heather mentioned, we have a few Annie Alexander things including her microscope and slide set. We’ve got the microscope on exhibit ourselves now, so I don’t think we’d be able to make it available for loan, but there are more slides than we are using, and we’ve got good photography of it if that would be helpful at all.

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