Susan La Flesche Picotte – biography

photo Susan La Flesche Picotte biography

The story of a great woman

Susan La Flesche Picotte is an outstanding American doctor with Indian roots. She ran a campaign to ban alcohol on the reservation, and also took an active part in the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis.


The girl’s father, Joseph, studied in St. Louis and on his return home was elected the leader of the reservation. The girl’s mother’s name was Mary and her grandfather was a military surgeon. Because her parents knew French and English, Susan also spoke these languages, but preferred to communicate only in the language of the residents of the reservation.

Susan was born in the summer of 1865. The family had four children, all girls. As a child, she saw Indian women die because white doctors refused to treat them. This attitude to her tribe prompted Susan to study medicine.

She began her studies early at the mission school and continued her education at a boarding school where teachers taught Indians how to live in a white society.

Education and achievements

She then continued her education at the Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, New Jersey. When she turned 18, she returned home and began teaching at an Indian school. After working there for a while, she entered the Institute in the Hampton’s. There only Indian students studied. Here she met a guy, Thomas, and they begin a romantic relationship.

But after a while Susan decides to devote all her time only to studies.. She was got an award for outstanding achievements in academic studies. At the age of 24 she decided to enter a medical school.

The education was quite expensive, and the girl’s family could not pay for it. As a result, Susan turned to the wealthy Fletcher family for help. They helped her file a petition with the Connecticut Education Association, in which the “future doctor” wrote that she wants to heal her people from various diseases and to teach them hygiene.

The organization agreed to bear the cost of education, accommodation and other needs. She was the first female representative to receive training assistance. The organization decided to help her with the condition that after graduation Susan would not get married to completely devote herself to medical practice. At the University she studied anatomy and physiology, as well as obstetrics, pharmacy, and chemistry.

Together with the rest of the students Susan performed all clinical work. While studying medicine she started changing: she began to dress as her white classmates, and do hairstyles like them. At the end of the second year Susan went home because many members of her family got measles. She then continued her education and gave written medical advice. In 1889, she left the medical college after having studied there for three years, and immediately applied to become a state doctor in Omaha. She received a permission two months later.

At the Pennsylvania women’s medical College (MCP), she earned a Doctorate in medicine. At the same time, she received many job offers from prestigious companies. But she decided to return home. It is remarkable that in order to help the inhabitants of reservation with the medical care in which they desperately needed, the girl overcame more than 100 thousand kilometers.

Her clinic

Back in Nebraska’s largest city, the doctor began taking care of many people. Her working day often lasted more than twenty hours, during which she received many patients. In addition to medical care, she helped write letters and made translations of official documents.

Her patients loved and respected her. The doctor treated patients with influenza, tuberculosis, dysentery and cholera. In a while, she opened her first clinic, which was constantly expanding.

Personal life

At the age of 27 Susan fell ill and spent several days bedridden. The next year she retired to be with a seriously ill mother. A year later she married Henry Picot, who recently divorced his wife. Many were surprised by this marriage, including the girl’s family.

The couple had two sons. After the birth of her sons, Susan Picotte began medical practice again, but she was got some chronic diseases. She couldn’t breathe anymore, so she took a vacation to recover her health. Later on, the doctor fell off her horse. The fall was so severe that it caused internal injuries.

Five years later, Susan opened a new hospital, but an incurable disease took too much of her strength.

She suffered greatly and in March 1915 Picotte died of cancer. She was buried at the Bancroft cemetery, next to her parents, sister and husband. Throughout his medical journey Susan helped more than a thousand patients.

Share this article: