Notes: Two fine images of pioneering physician Pauline Root dressed in a sari, presumably one she wore while in Madurai, India, while working as a doctor for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). In one photograph, Root wears the sari in traditional style, over her left shoulder and wrapped at the waist, revealing a darker garment on her right shoulder. In the other image, the outer garment is draped over her head and wrapped around her torso. The studio background is the same in both images, a trompe l'oeil painting of tropical plants and flowers.
Nineteenth century photographs of Dr. Root and other female physicians are uncommon. Drexel University has two poor condition cabinet cards of Root in Japan, a few months before she arrived in San Francisco.
Root (1859–1944) graduated from the Women's Medical College in Philadelphia and was the first female doctor to hold many posts throughout her working life. She spent seven or eight years in India establishing a Woman's Hospital in Madurai. She left India in 1891 and visited China and Japan before returning to the West Coast of the United States. She gave talks on her work to Christian groups along the way. She gave a lecture to the Occidental Board of Foreign Missions in San Francisco on February 3, 1892, and these photographs are likely to have been taken at that time. The photographers' studio, at Market and O'Farrell Streets, was five blocks from the church (Mason & Post).
After returning to the US, Root studied surgery at Cornell, obtained licenses to practice in Massachusetts and New York, and took a position as the resident physician at Smith College. In the 1920s, she taught "social hygiene" (sex-ed) for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For many years she lectured widely on her missionary work throughout the country.
Edition + Condition: Both images are fine with medium contrast sepia tones. The albumen silver prints measure 3-3/4 by 7-7/16 inches on 4-1/4 by 6-7/16 inch mounts. The photographer's imprint is "Abell & Priest Bancroft Building / 723 Market St. S.F. Cal." Both have blank backs with the notation "Dr. Pauline Root" and "India."
Publication: San Francisco: Abell & Priest, .
Item No: #307182