Dr. Kate, Angel on Snowshoes, Honored at Woodruff Museum

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

The northwoods is home to a legendary doctor, who dedicated her life to treating patients regardless of the tumultuous Wisconsin weather.

Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb, known as 'The Angel on Snowshoes,' became known worldwide as a modern day American pioneer who put the small town of Woodruff on the map.

Born in 1886, Kate Pelham was a woman before her time.

"She's a source of pride for the whole state of Wisconsin. She's regarded as one of the premiere citizens," said Marsha Dowd, curator at the Dr. Kate Museum in Woodruff.

Kate always wanted to be a doctor, a difficult feat in the early 1900's.

"There were very few female doctors. In fact Dr. Kate's father would not allow her to become a doctor. He said women could be teachers."

But Dr. Kate got her way when she was hosting a party for her father and had to serve the main course. She dropped it on the floor.

The next morning her father decided maybe she should be a doctor afterall.

"She was a woman well before her time. First of all being a woman doctor, she was very independent. Very competitive in medical school. She finished second in her class," Dowd said.

Her husband's poor health brought the couple to the fresh air of the northwoods. And in 1939 she began her own medical practice in Woodruff, where it was in dire need.

Dr. Kate tredged miles and miles in the snowy, frozen northwoods for her medical practice.

"However she could get to her patients, that's the mode of transportation she used."

Dr. Kate taught the first natural child birth classes in the area and delievered 4,000 babies, not losing a single mother or child.

"She really desired that there be a hospital in the Woodruff area and in 1949 she started a drive to build a hospital here."

In 1954 Dr. Kate received worldwide attention on the popular television show, 'This is Your Life.'

The Dr. Kate Museum in Woodruff honors the incredible woman.

"We have all of her equipment, her memorabilia, we have her yearbook from the University of Buffalo," Dowd said.

Ironically, Dr. Kate died in surgery in 1956 on Memorial Day weekend. It was right after the new hospital was up and running.

But her memory and legend as the 'angel on snowshoes' lives on.

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