“The 1920’s woman bobbed her hair, even rouged her cheeks and oh, you kid! She smoked a cigarette in public. Such a progressive woman was Hillsboro’s first lady doctor, Elizabeth Edmonston. She must have given the establishment fits,” — Elouise Postle.
Elizabeth Edmonston was an enigma to the town of Hillsboro. Born in far away New York, Edmonston obtained her medical license and become one of the only female physicians of her time.
As a young woman, Edmonston arrived in Hillsboro to visit a friend and fell in love with the quaint town. The charming downtown shops and rolling countryside instantly drew the young Edmonston in, and so she set out to become the first woman doctor of Highland County.
Edmonston was a unique lady. Author and close friend Elouise Postle noted, “She was a plain-looking woman. Her eyebrow-raising manner of dressing lent a masculine, authoritative look to her large-framed, monumentally statuesque figure.”
Edmonston’s appearance seemed to reflect the resilience of her character — she had worked her way through the male dominated medical field in New York and Ohio.
Apart from her appearance, Edmonston was entirely non-conforming to societal standards of the time. She wore men’s coats and gold cuff links with her skirts and blouses, smoked cigars, and sported a short bob haircut. Edmonston was perhaps the first sign of the budding feminism in Highland County, bringing with her the progressive mentality that would lend itself to several female doctors in the mid-1900s.
Elizabeth Edmonston died in 1931 after a life long lived. She paved the way for other women to enter industries many women had never even considered, broadening the horizons of Highland County as a whole.
Women’s rights and societal norms in America have come a long way. Gone are the days when women like Dr. Elizabeth Edmonston were frowned upon for wearing “men’s” clothing or donning a shorter haircut. Today, Highland County women can look back at historical ladies like Edmonston and appreciate all of their hard work in laying the groundwork for the future.
Isabella Warner is a local high school student and a freelance writer for The Times-Gazette.