By 1848 women had been seeking equal treatment with men for many years and the first gathering in the U.S. to give wide attention to their demands was during two days in July of that year (1848) in Seneca Falls, New York. Although it was a convention for and about women, some men attended. Afterward the attendees continued to address, to write and to share their convictions as long as they were able then passed the mantle to younger women.
A boost for one issue among their demands – recognition of their ability to work in certain types of professions – came during the Civil War when the need for aide for the wounded fell in great numbers to women. Clara Barton from Massachusetts led a group she called “Relief of the Wounded” who worked in the hospitals around Washington, D.C. It became apparent that women could indeed be helpful in the field of medicine and Barton’s organization continued its work after the war. (In 1881 she renamed this organization the American Red Cross.) Also after this war, seeing the need and the value of more doctors, some highly qualified women were accepted at medical schools.
The first Erie County woman to serve as a doctor was Mary Brooks Woods who graduated from the Western Homeopathic College in Cleveland in 1864. Her son Arthur married a woman doctor, Adella Brindle, who also practiced in the county. By 1874 six more women were registered as physicians in the county. One was from the Fairview area.
Her name has already surfaced as an extraordinary woman: Helen Daggett Pollay. She had returned to her home in Girard after the death of her young husband at the Battle of Antietam and five years later she married the brother of her sister-in-law. The man she married was Welcome Joshua Weeks, a farmer who also had served in the Civil War. An article about Helen appeared in the Cosmopolite on January 18, 1984. In it a great-niece of Helen’s, Marion Taylor, stated that after a few years of marriage they sought something more. Together they decided to attend the Homeopathic College in Cleveland. While there Helen also earned a second certification from the Hahnemann’s Society.
Whose idea was this? Marion was not sure but suspected it was Helen’s. She stated that Helen was “a strong-minded woman who ‘set about to get things done, usually her way.’” Then, with medical degrees in hand, Helen and Joshua opened their practice in Girard Township. Soon they relocated their services to the center of Fairview Borough in the two-story store just north of the Odd Fellows Building on the northwest corner of the Routes 98 and 20 intersection. (Their building is also known as the Lynch Music Store and currently is where Thomas Testi, Esq. has an office).
Being homeopathic doctors, they created their own natural substances to treat their patients. Their location developed into a drug store, carrying more than just their potions. For example, during the years the trolley rolled through town (1903 – 1922) ice cream was brought out to the store from Erie to sell. The Weeks put out a signal when ice cream was available.
Welcome was called Dr. Weeks and Helen was called the Mrs. Dr. Weeks. Most of her patients were women and children and she and Welcome both made home visits to their patients. In later years, after buying the brick home next door, they would climb into their phaeton from the step-stone in front of the house and off they would go.
The couple had no children but often entertained the children of their siblings. Helen also was an accomplished musician, playing the piano, auto harp and graphiphone.
And, she had more to offer… more extraordinary works in her biography. That is one more story.