Dr. Susan Anderson was petite and quick witted, and affectionately people called her “Doc Susie.” As the sole physician in Fraser, Colorado for much of the first half of the 20th century, Susan treated all the residents in town and sometimes even a horse or cow. She would go to their homes, often walking as she didn’t own a horse or car, through frigid cold temperatures and deep snow, staying warm wearing many layers and boots. In return, patients usually paid Susan in firewood or food.
While Susan was beloved and found much success in her practice in Fraser, in her youth she didn’t dream of becoming a physician. She wanted to be a telegraph operator. It was her father who encouraged his daughter to attend medical school, which she did at the University of Michigan. After graduating in 1897 she moved back home to Cripple Creek, Colorado, where she began working as a physician.
In Cripple Creek, her reputation as a physician grew and she settled into a relationship and got engaged. But then in 1900 her fiancé left her and her brother passed away. Distraught, Susan left the town and moved to Denver.
Life in Denver was challenging as she struggled to establish herself. With many physicians in the city and patients reluctant to see a woman, she soon moved again, this time to Greeley, Colorado, where for the next six years she worked as a nurse. Then after a bout with tuberculosis, she moved to Fraser in 1907, a mountain town with a climate that people believed helped with recovery. There Susan settled and was a physician to the community for almost fifty years until she retired in 1956.
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“A snapshot biography of Dr. Susan Anderson” sources: “Susan Anderson, MD” – Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame / “Susan “Doc Susy” Anderson – Frontier Physician” – Legends of America / Portrait taken circa 1900 – Wikimedia Commons.