I have always been fascinated by pioneers. Pioneers are not always men on horses taming the west or mining for gold . . . pioneers are sometimes women who are among the first to do something typically thought of as a man's job. That is why I found this photograph so interesting. It shows a woman who is a medical doctor sitting in the back of a horse-drawn ambulance. In doing some research on the image, I found that the woman is Dr. Elizabeth Bruyn of Brooklyn. Dr. Bryun was an ambulance surgeon in New York City in the early 1900's. On her first day at work in 1910, she saved the life of an 18 month old baby who had been overvome by gas from a leak in an apartment. I learned that in 1911 she was in this ambulance with a patient, when the horse pulling the wagon got spooked, and bolted, throwing the driver from the wagon. Ms. Bruyn courageously tried to protect the patient as the out of control wagon crashed into a streetcar. She was badly hurt in the wreck, but despite her serious injuries, she continued to administer aid to her patient. Only after another ambulance arrived, and her patient was in safe hands, did she pass out from her own injuries.
In 1918 Dr. Bruyn joined an all-female group of doctors that was equipped by The National American Woman Suffrage Association of New York City. This group of women doctors was sent to France in World War I to establish a 300 bed hospital dedicated to treating victims of poison gas. I was unable to find any additional information on this effort, so we can only speculate as to the magnitude of healing and comfort rendered by this group of women, sent to war-torn France.
Have you ever noticed that sometimes our greatest heroes are unsung?