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Arizona Women in Medicine

Emma Louise Mau

Emma Louise Mau

Tuberculosis was the scourge of the early 20th century life in the United States. Health seekers always were searching for a good climate for recovery, and it didn’t take long for Tucson, with its dry, warm climate to attract them.

Tuberculosis victims began to arrive in the 1900s, followed a decade later by World War I veterans whose lungs had been poisoned by mustard gas.

Tucson gradually became a center for patients with lung and other health problems. By 1935, the Tucson City Directory listed 21 hospitals, sanitariums, clinics, “preventatoriums” and boarding houses for those suffering from tuberculosis.

Women quickly made their mark on the Tucson medical scene. Among them was Emma Louise Mau who founded the Fairview Sanitarium at 637 N. Sixth Ave. on January 6, 1926.

Emma Louise Mau was born and attended public schools in Young America, Minnesota. She graduated as a registered nurse from Luther Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1907, and practiced nursing in Colorado and Illinois before bringing her mother to Tucson in 1911 to cure her respiratory problems.

Her mother quickly recovered and returned to Minnesota, but Mau stayed on to practice nursing in Tucson.

She opened the Fairview Sanitarium. Under her capable management, the sanitarium was an immediate success. Patients benefited from her excellent care and the attractive grounds and homelike atmosphere she created.

Mau also was praised in local newspapers for her charity work with the Sisters of St. Mary’s Hospital and the Baptist Church. Frequently, she wrote professional articles on subjects of diet and health.

There were women doctors, as well, who made their mark in early-day Tucson.

Rosa Goodrich Boido, M.D., born in Navasota, Texas, on February 24, 1870, was brought to the Arizona Territory as a child. Her father, Briggs Goodrich, went into private law practice with his brother in Tombstone. He served as Pima County attorney and, in 1887, became attorney general for the Arizona Territory.

Biodo was educated at the Pacific Methodist College in Santa Rosa, California, and received her medical degree from the Cooper Medical College in San Francisco. She and her husband, Dr. Lorenzo Boido, both practiced in Tucson for many years.

Rosa Biodo served as the examining physician for the Macabees, Knights and Ladies of Security and the Fraternal Brotherhood. She was a suffragette president of the Equal Suffrage Club of Pima County and worked hard to get women the right to vote.

Biodo stood staunchly for prohibition and served as superintendent of Scientific Temperance of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Arizona.

One event clouded her notable career. She performed what she considered to be a necessary abortion. An undated newspaper account was vague as to the details but stated that she had done the right thing, albeit illegal.

Dr. Esther Closson came to Tucson as a result of her own fight with tuberculosis. She received her medical degree from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia and went on to study tropical medicine and hygiene at the University of London.

Closson’s ambition was to become a medical missionary in Asia. During her first assignment at a missionary hospital for women and children in India, doctors discovered that she had tuberculosis. They collapsed one lung to allow it to rest, and after a year and a half in recuperation, she was able to return to the United States.

After spending several months in a New York tuberculosis center, Closson decided to try the dry climate of Tucson. Within a few years her recovery was complete. She opened a practice specializing in obstetrics. Over the next 22 years, she delivered more than 800 babies, more than half at home.

In 1950, Closson gave up private practice to work as an administrator for Pima County’s well-baby and prenatal clinic. Four years later she was named director of the Pima County Health Department.

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