Susan Anderson, Mountain Doctor

When: 1870 – 1960

Where: Born in Indiana, and later moved to Cripple Creek, Denver, Greeley, & Fraser, Colorado

credit: Wikicommons
credit: Wikicommons

Why Important: One of Colorado’s earliest women doctors


Susan Anderson, often known as “Doc Susie,” was born in 1870 in Indiana. Her father and mother had divorced, and Susan lived with her father, a farmer, and her grandmother and younger brother, John. Susan wanted to become a telegraph operator, and learned Morse Code, but her father wanted her to be a doctor instead, and offered to pay for her medical school. At this time, there were very few women doctors.

Susan Anderson in Cripple Creek(credit: Denver Public Library)
Susan Anderson in Cripple Creek
(credit: Denver Public Library)

By the time Susan was in high school, she and her family had moved to Kansas. She graduated from high school in 1891; that same year, her father remarried and the family moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado, where gold had recently been discovered. In 1893, Susan started medical school at the University of Michigan. After college, she returned to Cripple Creek, and started to make a name for herself as a talented physician. Once, she saved a miner’s arm after a male doctor had told him it would need to be cut off.

1900 was a difficult year for Susan. Her fiancée left her and her younger brother died. Deciding to leave Cripple Creek and its bad memories, Susan tried to establish a medical practice in Denver. There were already many doctors in Denver, however, and she was unable to make a living. She then moved to Greeley, where she worked as a nurse for six years. Susan then became sick with tuberculosis, which was very common at the time.

Fraser and Fraser's Main street circa 1904-1907(credit: Denver Public Library)
Fraser and Fraser’s Main street circa 1904-1907
(credit: Denver Public Library)

The mountain climate often helped to cure tuberculosis, so Susan moved to the tiny mountain town of Fraser. Over time, the mountain air did help Susan recover from her illness, and when she felt better, she began to practice medicine again. She earned the townspeople’s trust and soon had a successful medical practice. Later, Susan also took the position of County Coroner. Susan lived in Fraser the rest of her life. She lived to be 90 years old.

Content Date: Jan. 1, 1870 to Jan. 1, 1960

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