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Meet The Author: Gesa Kirsch
More Than Gold in California: The Life and Work of Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter
Gesa E. Kirsch, professor of English and women’s studies at Bentley University (in Waltham, MA) recently published More Than Gold in California: The Life and Work of Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter, a historical memoir written by Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter, an early California woman physician. The memoir was out of print for more than seventy years, and the new edition offers a critical introduction along with historical photographs, images, and letters. Kirsch notes: “More Than Gold in California is a lost classic of women’s memoir. It is inspiring, engaging, and filled with adventure. It speaks to readers today, addressing contemporary issues, such as overcoming gender stereotypes, working toward equality, engaging in civic leadership, and promoting a greater common good.”
Mary Bennett Ritter was a farmer’s daughter who defied all conventions. In the 1880s, she decided to attend medical school, earn the money to pay for it, and pursue a career as a physician. Ritter’s memoir is a riveting account of her accomplishments and the challenges she faced, revealing her keen sense of observation, humor, savvy, and her courage to defy gender norms. The memoir is filled with adventure and drama—house calls via horse and buggy rides through the dark streets of Berkeley, a spurned lover’s suicide, a near drowning at the Pacific Grove Beach, one of the first automobile rides across rugged California dirt roads, intercontinental rail travel, and voyages to the Far East. As the story unfolds, readers encounter the movers and shakers of the time—University of California presidents and families of wealth and influence, including the Scrippses, the Hearsts, and the Rockefellers.