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Lucy M. F. Wanzer, M. D., now venerable in years, has made a record of distinguished professional and humanitarian achievement and service, and is one of the noble and loved women to whom her home city of San Francisco pays high tribute. The doctor was graduated in the medical department of the University of California, as a member of the class of the centennial year 1876, and has the distinction of having been the first female student and graduate of this department of the university. Though at the time of this writing, in the autumn of 1923, Doctor Wanzer is eighty-two years of age, she is still actively engaged in the practice of the exacting profession which she has dignified and honored alike by her gracious personality and her loyal stewardship. As a girl of seventeen years Doctor Wanzer began to fight her own way in the world, and she served in various positions to enable her to aid in the support of the family and also to earn the funds necessary to complete her university course. She had to overcome both precedent and prejudice in being accepted as a student in the medical school of the University of California, but her courage and characteristic resourcefulness and determination enable her to gain her point at this time, as she has in the varied and benignant relations of her subsequent career. She has been physician to many of the most prominent and influential women in San Francisco, was here one of those actively concerned in the founding of the Children’s Hospital, of which she is a director, and she stands today as one of the representative and honored members of her profession in the State of California.

Doctor Wanzer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 11, 1841, and her maiden name was Lucy Maria Field. She is a daughter of Storer W. and Lucy Ann (Jones) Field, both natives of Massachusetts, where the former was born at Northfield and the latter at Greenfield. The mother of Doctor Wanzer was of English lineage and Revolutionary New England ancestry. One of her ancestors owned ships that plyed to different ports and that were captured by the French. Mrs. Field was venerable in years at the time of her death, in June, 1893.

Storer W. Field, a watchmaker and jeweler, became a pioneer settler in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he opened a store in 1837, when the future metropolis was little more than an Indian village, the white settlers having been few in number. Ill health finally caused him to go to a farm near Madison, that state, and there he remained until 1858, he having become one of the leading men of Dane County and having there served as justice of the peace. In 1858 he and his wife, owing to the impaired health of the latter, made the journey to California, by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and thus they here gained pioneer honors. Mr. Field’s brother, Hampton E., had here established a home in 1853, and had urged Storer W. to come to California. Storer W. Field engaged in the mercantile business at Santa Cruz and, as president of the village council he became virtually the first mayor of that new vital little city. He was thus serving at the time when there was much confusion in the quieting of original Spanish titles in that and other parts of the state, and to adjust matters the Government deeded the Town of Santa Cruz to its municipal board of trustees. Later Mr. Field gave several years of service as treasurer of Santa Cruz County, and he continued to reside in Santa Cruz until his death, in 1894, his wife having passed away in the preceding year. Mr. Field was of English ancestry and the family was founded in New England in the early colonial period, representatives of the same having been patriot soldiers in the War of the Revolution, including the paternal grandfather of Mr. Field, whose grandmother later drew a pension in recognition of this service on the part of her husband.

At the age of seventeen years Doctor Wanzer was graduated in the high school in Hartford, Connecticut, and upon her arrival in California she passed the examination that gained her a certificate to teach in the schools of this state. She secured a school at Temescal, Alameda County, where she remained one year and taught in all grades from the primary up to that including algebra and other higher branches. During this period she gave her attention also to sewing, and her earnings were largely used in the support of her father’s family. At Santa Cruz she thereafter was clerk in her father’s store and also in the local postoffice, her father having been the postmaster. She was determined to study medicine, and in order to augment her income sufficiently to make this possible, she learned telegraphy and took charge of the Santa Cruz telegraph office, established in a corner of the postoffice. By her resourcefulness she acquired funds sufficient to enable her to complete one year’s course in Trawl Institute, New York City, in which she was graduated and received the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Within a short time after her graduation, she married, and after her return to California became a teacher in the Lincoln School at San Francisco. In time she entered the medical department of the University of California, in which she was graduated in November, 1876, as its first woman graduate, she and a young Scotch woman having made application for entrance at the same time. The regents of the university seemed shocked by the temerity of the ambitious young women, and tried to persuade them to go instead to the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia. Doctor Wanzer was refused entrance in the medical department of the university until the kindly interposition of two loyal friends, John F. Swift and Rev. Horatio Stebbins aided her in overcoming obstacles and gaining her ends. The regents acknowledged that the young woman had got the best of them, and asked the students of her class to accord to her such "hazing" that she would not remain at the school. The members of the class, however, treated their woman co-student with utmost courtesy and consideration, became her stanch friends and champions and gave to Doctor Wanzer pleasing associations and kindness that have remained as gracious memories to her during the long intervening years.

After receiving from the university her degree of Doctor of Medicine, Doctor Wanzer opened an office over a little plumbing shop at 130 Geary Street, San Francisco. Four years later she removed to 205 Taylor Street, where she remained more than twenty years–until the time when the site was given over to the erection of a new building. She then removed to 1220 Geary Street, and five years later she purchased her present home and office, at 2970 California Street. The doctor has long retained a substantial and representative general practice, but she now curtails her activities to office work and limited numbers of calls or visits. She has specialized in gynecology and obstetrics, as well as the treatment of diseases of children, and she is loved counselor and friend in many of the leading homes of San Francisco.

Doctor Wanzer was one of the founders and original directors of the Children’s Hospital, erected and equipped for the care of women and children, and this hospital was the first in California to graduate trained nurses. When the state transferred the institution to the University of California as a teaching school, Doctor Wanzer resigned her position as director, because she felt that the transfer was a virtual betrayal of the trust of the early donors to the hospital. She is a member of the American Medical Association, the California State Medical Society, the San Francisco County Medical Society, and the Women’s National Medical Association, besides being a life member of the San Francisco Academy of Science. She is affiliated with the Daughters of Rebekah and the Iota Chapter of the Epsilon College Sorority, and she is a member of the California Club and the Century Club.


Transcribed by Elaine Sturdevant


Source: "The San Francisco Bay Region" Vol. 3 page 196-201 by Bailey Millard. Published by The American Historical Society, Inc. 1924.

© 2004 Elaine Sturdevant.


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