Portrait of Dr. Clara Duncan, undated

Portrait of Dr. Clara Duncan, undated

Today was the first day back in the stacks for me as campus slowly begins reopening. Walking into my office felt strange as everything was in a perfect state of preservation from the day I left it back in March. I took a short break from responding to the avalanche of reference queries stacked in my inbox to see what I might happen upon in the archives. My hope was that I might stumble across some materials related to our current situation in any way. It did not take long, merely moments before I came across the Clara Duncan papers.

Doctor of Medicine diploma, May 31, 1919

Doctor of Medicine diploma, May 31, 1919

Dr. Clara Kocher Duncan (1878-1964) was born in White Haven, Pennsylvania and later moved to Texas where she became one of the first female medical doctors in Texas. She graduated from the Rice Institute, and the University of Texas Medical School in 1919.

Medical license, August 6, 1919

Medical license, August 6, 1919

Clara interned at Houston Memorial Hospital and received her medical license from the State Board of Medical Examiners on August 6, 1919. During this time the world was facing another pandemic. Until Covid-19, the 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. The influenza virus spread worldwide during 1918-1919. According to CDC approximately 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus with the number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million globally.

The Cactus, 1919

The Cactus, 1919

The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic. In the In Memorium section of Clara’s 1919 University of Texas yearbook “The Cactus”, several students are listed having died of the influenza or pneumonia as a result of the influenza.

Following her internship, Dr. Duncan served as a staff member of the Houston Memorial Hospital from 1922-1948, and was the vice-president of the hospital staff organization in 1927. Clara died at the age of 86 in October 1964.

 

 

This collection includes her 1919 University of Texas yearbook “The Cactus” for which she was editor-in-chief, a photocopy of her portrait, copies of her diplomas and medical license, and typescript poems from the 1920s written by her patients.

Poem "My Doctor", undated

Poem “My Doctor”, undated

Established in 1993, the Archives of Women of the Southwest is one of the special collections of DeGolyer Library. The primary mission of the Archives of Women of the Southwest is to document the historical experience of women in the Southwest, with special emphasis on Dallas and North Texas, as well as a regional focus.

Contact Samantha Dodd, curator of the Archives of Women of the Southwest for additional information or assistance with accessing the collections.

For access to these collections or to learn more about the women of the southwest, be sure to visit the DeGolyer Library and check out our books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and photographs.