Friday, June 25, 2021

Eleanor Dorcas Pond Mann, Schenectady Physician

This post was written by library volunteer Gail Denisoff.  

Many are familiar with the names of two early woman doctors in Schenectady – Dr. Janet Murray opened a medical practice on Jay Street in 1891 and Dr. Elizabeth Gillette, perhaps the best known, began her medical and surgical career on Union Street in 1900. Another woman who began her private practice here in 1903, Dr. Eleanor Mann, is lesser known.

Photo of horse-drawn carriage. An elderly woman wearing a winter coat sits in the carriage next to a male driver.
Dr. Eleanor Mann, in horse-drawn carriage. Photo from Mann Family Photos file, Grems-Doolittle Library Photo Collection.

Born Eleanor Dorcas Pond on November 12, 1867 in Franklin, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of Samuel Willis Pond, a local farmer, and his second wife Dorcas B. Gilman. Her father had a son, Dana, from his first marriage who was 15 at the time of Eleanor’s birth and she also had a younger sister who died in infancy. Sadly, her father died just before her third birthday, at the age of 43, and her mother died less than three years later at only 27, leaving Eleanor an orphan at the age of 5.

Eleanor was taken in by a widowed aunt, Susan Blake, who had two older children, Edward and Mary, and lived in nearby West Medway, Massachusetts. She was a good student, graduating as the valedictorian of Medway High School in 1885. Because of her scholastic achievements, Eleanor was granted a partial scholarship to Boston University to which she commuted by train from Medway during her freshman year. In later years, she rented a room closer to the college in a boarding house in Somerville, borrowing money to continue her studies.

Described as a person of high intellectual ability, Eleanor was also fun-loving and practical. She and her close friend, Ida Shaw, had no interest in joining one of the established Greek societies on campus at the time. However, when they were seniors they decided to start their own society, one which was different from the others, based in fellowship and service to others. As Ida proclaimed, “Let us found a society that shall be kind alike to all and think more of a girl’s inner self and character than of her personal appearance.” They decided to use a triple Greek letter, and by Thanksgiving of 1888, had fully developed a constitution, motto, rituals, emblems, and bylaws for the new society, Delta Delta Delta. Two other unaffiliated seniors, along with several underclassmen became the first 19 women initiated into the society which still flourishes as a nationwide sorority. Eleanor and Ida were both involved in Tri Delta for the rest of their lives and are celebrated each November on the sorority's Founders Day. 

The first members of the Delta Delta Delta sorority at Boston University. Eleanor is seated on a chair in the middle row, second from left in a light-colored dress, 1889.

After graduating from Boston University in 1889, Eleanor hoped to continue her education in medical school despite opposition from most of her friends, but all her applications were rejected. She spent the next four years teaching Latin and science in Webster and Salem, Massachusetts. Finally, in 1893, she was accepted to Tufts Medical College in Boston along with four other women. Several Boston newspapers followed the progress of the five female students as their attendance at Tufts was considered a novelty at that time. In 1896 all five graduated, The Boston Post reporting: “From the medical department of [Tufts College], there will be five young ladies who have passed examinations…. Miss Eleanor Pond of Medway will appear at commencement. The subject of her thesis will be ”Antisepsis from a Modern Point of View." Miss Pond is a particularly bright, ambitious girl and deserves high praise for the obstacles which she has overcome so successfully during her college career.” Years later, Eleanor wrote an article for The Trident, her sorority publication, entitled “The Woman Doctor,” saying that women had unique qualities to contribute to the medical field and “the desire has grown and developed and has been passed on to her sisters of the future generations. They have overcome almost insurmountable obstacles to attain their purpose until now they have made a place for themselves and a worthy one beside their brother physicians.”

Portrait photo of Eleanor, undated.

Not long after graduation, on July 22, 1896, Eleanor married Arthur S. Mann, a childhood friend from Medway. Many of her Tri Delta sorority sisters attended, singing a Delta Delta Delta song instead of the traditional wedding march. The Boston Post reported, “One of the most fashionable home weddings held here for a dozen years was held at the home of Mrs. Susan Blake when her niece, Dr. Eleanor Dorcas Pond, was given in marriage to Mr. Arthur S. Mann of Chicago, formerly of this town.”

Eleanor and Arthur first lived in Chicago where Arthur, a brilliant MIT graduate, worked as a mechanical engineer. Eleanor practiced medicine there, lectured, and completed some post-graduate work at the Chicago Post Graduate College as well. She also founded a Chicago chapter of TriDelta in 1897. Later that year, she and Arthur moved to New York City where she continued to practice and lectured at the Woman’s Medical School. The Manns lived in New York until 1902 when Arthur’s job took them to Australia for a year. Women were not allowed to practice medicine there so Eleanor taught mathematics in the local high school.  

Arthur and Eleanor Mann seated on a porch in Australia, circa 1902.

When they returned to the United States in 1903, they settled in Schenectady where Arthur began a career with General Electric, receiving several patents for his work. They first lived on Glenwood Boulevard where Eleanor began her practice, devoted almost exclusively to obstetrics and children’s health. Not long after, they purchased a home at 2 Lowell Road, on the corner of Rugby, where Eleanor continued her practice and lived until her death.
Having no children, the Manns were able to travel extensively, including a trip around the world. Their home was full of mementos from their travels and the couple also worked to create beautiful gardens surrounding their home. In 1915, their happy life was shattered by Arthur’s illness and death. Eleanor cared for him devotedly and after his passing spent most of her time doing pro bono work for the poor of Schenectady.

Eleanor’s cousins, Edward and Mary Blake, came to live with her after Arthur died. In 1924, her own health began to deteriorate, but she kept up her practice. In August, she left for a rest at the Clifton Springs Sanitarium near Rochester, NY, with her cousin Mary. Eleanor was there only a few days when she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died the following day on August 26, 1924, at the age of 56. She is buried with her husband in the Mann family plot in Evergreen Cemetery, West Medway, Massachusetts. A sorority sister, Emma Gleason, recalled “At her death, people thronged to the house, the remark universally made being, ‘We loved her so.' What greater tribute could be given? Such was Eleanor Pond as I remember her – a friend I think of with loyalty and affection.”

Gravestone for Eleanor and Arthur Mann, Evergreen Cemetery.

Applebaum, Beth Dees, "We Loved Her So", Trident, Winter/Spring 2018
Becque, Fran PhD, "Happy 125th Birthday Tri Delta!", Fraternity History and More, 11/27/2013.
Directory of Deceased American Physicians
"History of Delta Delta Delta: Eleanor Dorcas Pond", Tri Delta, Colgate University
New York State Census: 1905, 1915
Schenectady City Directories, 1904-1924
United States Federal Census: 1870, 1880, 1910, 1920