Susan Emma Hertz Howard, M.D., broke off her engagement to have her own career. After graduating at the turn of the century, she became the first woman physician in Burlington, Vermont.
Susan Hertz was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1869. Her mother, Mary Henderson, was from Natchez, Mississippi, and her father's parents were from Germany. Her father fell ill and was often away for treatment as she was growing up. When his condition worsened, the whole family, including two sisters, moved to Vermont.
Susan Hertz spent much of her childhood with her aunt, Carrie Henderson and her husband, Lieutenant Wadhams. In their company, she met some remarkable people. In 1881, at age 12, she accompanied her uncle to a White House reception following Chester A. Arthur's swearing-in as president, after the assassination of President James Garfield. On March 1, 1885, authors George W. Cable and Mark Twain spent the day with aunt Carrie and her husband in Washington, D.C. The 15-year-old Susan sat next to Mark Twain and chatted with him, and he signed the family autograph album with "There ain't no pints about that frog that's any different from any other frog." Ten years later, while visiting her father's brother, Franz Hertz, in Germany, Susan Hertz met Prince Otto von Bismark. Germany's Emperor William II had forced Bismark into retirement and her uncle and aunt attended the historic reconciliation when the emperor bestowed a military cape on Bismarck.
Susan Hertz was engaged to marry a minister, but on her return from Germany, she decided instead to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. She studied homeopathic medicine at New York Women's Medical College and was also required to work in the city's poorest areas. She loved this work and graduated with her doctor of medicine degree in 1896.
Seeking broader training, Dr. Hertz then studied at the University of Michigan Medical School, graduating in 1900. During her 1901 internship in Detroit, she observed that wealth offered no protection from illness and that she could help rich and poor patients alike with compassion and her medical training.
Dr. Hertz passed the four-day medical board examination and set up practice as the first woman physician in Burlington, Vermont. She was welcomed by most local doctors, who invited her to attend an American Medical Association meeting with them in New Jersey, but was barred from practicing in Burlington's hospital. Instead she became attending physician to a Catholic children's home and a home for unwed mothers.
Dr. Hertz was looking for a house to rent for her offices when her uncle introduced her to Harry Stinson Howard. Dr. Hertz married Harry Howard in 1904, and she suspended her practice to travel with him. Their twin daughters were born in 1908, and in 1909 she resumed her practice as a school physician. She later served as medical director of Burlington's public schools, and was an advocate of women's rights throughout her career.