Dr. Marion Craig Potter

MCPotter1Born September 14, 1863
Birthplace Churchville, NY
Died March 23, 1943
Grave Site Unknown
Contribution Physician and women’s rights advocate
Related Web Site Baker-Cederberg Museum and Archives: Marion Craig Potter

Marion Craig was born in Churchville (Monroe County), New York on September 14, 1863. She was the daughter of James W. Craig, M.D., who practiced medicine in Churchville, and Sarah Sherwin (Butterfield) Craig. Potter had two sisters, both of whom, like herself, studied medicine.

Marion Craig was educated to be a teacher at the Geneseo (New York) Normal School. However, deciding that she wanted to become a physician, she enrolled in the University of Michigan Medical Department. In 1884, she graduated and received her Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). After graduating from medical school, she practiced medicine for a short time in Churchville. She later moved to Rochester, New York, where she developed a large practice.

In 1891 Marion Craig traveled abroad where she worked for a time at the Louis Pasteur Institute in Paris. She also attended lectures by Charot at the Salpetrieve. During her trip, she visited her sister Sarah, who had become a medical missionary in Japan.

MCPotter2In 1893, once again in Rochester, Marion Craig married Ezra B. Potter, Jr. Ezra Potter was also a physician, an 1872 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He had practiced medicine in Photograph of Marion Craig Potter Webster, New York with his father, and later worked as Superintendent of Rochester’s State Hospital. The Potters had two children. James Craig, born March 15, 1898, would follow his parents’ footsteps into the practice of medicine. Ezra, born July 3,1901, died on February 7, 1910.

In 1886, many of the city’s women physicians had joined together to form the Provident Dispensary for Women and Children. The purpose of this dispensary was two-fold: to provide care for poor patients and to provide training for medical graduates. Marion Craig Potter was affiliated with the Dispensary in addition to having a private practice. After ten years in operation, the Dispensary was absorbed by the Outpatient Department of the Rochester City Hospital (later to become the Rochester General Hospital) when, in spite of a small annual stipend from the City, it was unable to secure sufficient funding.

In 1898, soon after the Dispensary was absorbed and the same year her son James was born, Potter was appointed to the staff of the Woman’s Clinic of the Outpatient Department of the Hospital. During her years with the Hospital, Potter was promoted to Junior Assistant in the House, where she took care of those admitted patients who preferred a woman doctor.

SDolley5In addition to her large practice and her duties at the hospital, Potter achieved widespread professional recognition. She was lauded as a pioneer in upstatePhotograph of Practitioner’s Society New York in use of the diphtheria vaccine. She was a member of the Rochester Academy of Medicine, the American Medical Association, the Blackwell Medical Society (and of its predecessor the Practitioner’s Society), and the Women’s Medical Society of New York State. She was a charter member of the Medical Women’s National Association, a member of the American Society for the Control of Cancer and a member of the Health Education Division of the Public Health Committee of the Medical Society of the County of Monroe.

Potter lectured for the Public Health Education Committee of the American Medical Association and was an editor of the Women’s Medical Journal. She served as Vice President of the Medical Women’s National Association, and as President of both the Blackwell Medical Society and the Women’s Medical Society of New York State.

During World War I, Potter belonged to the Committee of Medical Women of the Council of National Defense. For her efforts on behalf of Serbian children, she was recognized by the Serbian Red Cross. King Alexander of Serbia awarded her the Cross of Saint Salve V. Her interest in children’s health and welfare was also evidenced by her service as a delegate to the White House Conference for Child Care and Protection.

In 1937, Potter received a citation from the Alumni Council of the University of Michigan for distinguished service in the field of medicine. Her medical publications include Germ Theory of Diseases, Veneral Prophylaxes, and others. She also wrote The Adolescent Period and, veering away from her profession, The History of Stained and Painted Glass and Home Economies.

MCPotter3Potter was a suffragist who knew Susan B. Anthony and Frances Willard (temperance leader and suffragist). She was said to have worked with another suffragist, Clara Barton, as a part of the original group who formed the American Red Cross. She belonged to a number of organizations which promoted the rights of women, including the Political Equality Club of Rochester, the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, the League of Women Voters and the College Women’s Club. She also belonged to the Consumers’ League, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Rochester’s Century Club, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).

In addition to her hospital duties, Potter practiced medicine with her son, Dr. J. Craig Potter, from 1925 until her retirement in 1942. She died at her home in Rochester, New York on March 23, 1943.

Bibliography of Suggested Books & Articles

  • Atwater, Edward C., “Women in Medicine,” (article, origin unknown)
  • Baker-Cederberg Museum and Archives, Records of the Staff of The Rochester City Hospital, From Its Organization in 1872 to January 1, 1924, excerpts from 1898 minutes. (MS). Rochester, New York.
  • Leonard, John William, ed., Woman’s Who’s Who of America…1914-1915, New York: The American Commonwealth Co., c1914.
  • “Marion Potter Dies; Pioneer Woman Doctor,” obituary in the New York Herald Tribune, March 25, 1943.
  • More, Ellen, “The First Women Physicians of Rochester City Hospital,” Baker-Cederberg Notebook, V. 3, No. 3, (Winter 1986).
  • Plukas, Dr. Joseph, “Potter Family Recognition,” Remarks, typescript, Baker-Cederberg Museum and Archives, Rochester General Hospital, Rochester, NY, n.d.
  • “Women of Attainment: Dr. Marion Craig Potter,” by “N.M.F.” Museum Service [?], Feb.-March, 1939.