Member’s Choice: More than Gold in California
Gesa E. Kirsch
Boston Athenæum member Gesa Kirsch will speak about the courage, determination, and advocacy of Dr. Mary Bennett Ritter, an early California physician and women’s rights activist. Kirsch researched Dr. Ritter’s life and legacy, located historical artifacts and letters, and wrote the introduction to her historically significant memoir, More than Gold in California, a work that had been out of print for more than eighty years. The memoir offers a riveting account of life in the late nineteenth century and reveals Dr. Ritter’s keen sense of observation, humor, and courage to challenge gender norms. She earned her MD in 1886 from Cooper Medical College, now Stanford Medical School, and was one of two women in her class. She ran her own practice in Berkeley for twenty years, became Dean of Women Students at the University of California Berkeley, and supervised the construction of the campus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, now part of UC San Diego. She advocated for women’s rights, access to physical education, and safe housing, and worked with the League of Women Voters. More than Gold in California marks an important contribution to women’s leadership and activism, medical history, and women’s history.
Gesa E. Kirsch, PhD, is professor of English and past director of the Valente Center for the Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her research focuses on feminist rhetorical studies; archival research methods; and ethics, gender, and diversity. Her work has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has authored, co-authored, and co-edited nine books, including Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies (winner of the Winifred Horner Outstanding Book Award, co-authored with Jacqueline Jones Royster) and Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process (co-edited with Liz Rohan). Her current research explores the rhetorical strategies, professional networks, and social activism of early twentieth-century women physicians. Kirsch has held visiting faculty appointments at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; the University of Oregon; Syracuse University; and the University of New Hampshire. She has been named the 2019 Thomas R. Watson Visiting Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at the University of Louisville.
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