Palm Harbor Women Pioneers Were No Sissies!
Dr. Grace Ruarc Whitford Parr was born during the Women's Suffrage Movement, but she managed to crack the glass ceiling while making huge contributions to Palm Harbor and the state of Florida.
The women who came to Palm Harbor in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were a breed onto themselves.
Imagine taking care of a home with no electricity which meant no air conditioning in Florida. Prior to today's pesticide spraying, the mosquitoes were dense, not to mention the Palmetto bugs and other insects hanging around! Unfortunately, those flying insects also brought disease. Imagine walking to draw water from a spring to use for bathing and cooking. There were no commercialized food companies catching your fish for you or slaughtering animals for meat. Farming was done so each family could sustain themselves, unless a large farm sold their goods.
Even with limited resources, clothes still needed to be washed, dried and ironed; food placed on the table at mealtime; drinking water available for the family; health issues tended to and children to educate. Women were busy from before sun up to after sun down. The women of Palm Harbor found time to organize clubs, tend to the ill, become doctors and teachers and take the lead on how Palm Harbor would be shaped for the future.
An example of a woman who changed Palm Harbor and the state of Florida is Dr. Grace Ruarc Whitford Parr. Dr. Grace did many good things for Palm Harbor but what she accomplished first was to graduate college and attend medical school. She was born in 1883, a time when many women were raised to be married and raise children and a time when women didn’t vote. She graduated from the University of Chicago and completed her internship at Hahnemann Hospital which was also associated with Hahnemann Medical College. Hahnemann Medical College admitted women students around 1870. Interestingly, Hahnemann Hospital in Chicago was known as a “homeopathic” hospital, way ahead of its time. Dr. Grace must have learned homeopathic remedies while interning at the hospital.
When Dr. Grace made Palm Harbor her permanent home, she was married to another doctor, Dr. H.E. Whitford, of the Ozona Whitfords. It was around 1912 when Dr. Grace began to focus more on living in Palm Harbor. Dr. Grace did not initially want to practice medicine in Palm Harbor, but when she surveyed the area and determined that Pinellas County was in great need of physicians, she took her Florida boards.
Dr. Grace was interested in the Federation of Women’s Clubs and actively worked to establish a place where tuberculosis patients could be treated. She also served as the President of the Pinellas County Tuberculosis and Health Association. Although she headed up many clubs and organizations, the one that stands out is what she was asked to do during World War I. Dr. Grace was asked by the Florida State Board of Health (at that time) to organize a bureau for children’s health. She served as chief of this bureau for about 18 months which was later named the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health. In the 1950’s she was the chairman of District 4’s State Board of Public Welfare. She was also on the staff at Morton Plant Hospital.
Considering that in 1912 women physicians were not very abundant, Dr. Grace tended to the locals and found her place in history through public programs. She was coming up as a physician when homeopaths and “regular” medical physicians didn’t see eye to eye on treatment plans. Dr. Grace was born during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Considering that women didn’t get the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, Dr. Grace certainly cracked that glass ceiling early.