Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

May 29, 2013

Headstone awaits pioneering woman doctor

TRAVERSE CITY — Augusta Rosenthal-Thompson, Traverse City’s first woman doctor, and the six-year-old son she could not save from diphtheria in the 1890s, finally will get a headstone at Oakwood Cemetery.

A graveside memorial dedication is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. -- Rosenthal-Thompson’s birthday -- thanks to the Grand Traverse Area Genealogical Society, Zonta Club of Traverse City and local history writers Gini LeClaire and Richard Fidler.

Fidler, a retired Traverse City junior science and biology teacher, includes a chapter on Rosenthal-Thompson in his 2006 book, “Who We Were, What We Did.” It noted that the doctor and her son were buried next to each other in an unmarked grave, something Fidler discovered while researching his book.

“I was touched that this woman who did so much for the community was buried in an unmarked grave and I wondered why,” he said. “The genealogical society really went to bat to make this happen. All I offered was a little window of her life.”

The unmarked grave also bothered LeClaire, another local history writer, who thought the genealogical society should raise money to purchase a granite headstone. About that time, GTAGS member Kathleen Farley saw a short Record-Eagle story that Zonta, an international women’s service club, sought grant applications for local projects.

LeClaire submitted one. Zonta replied with a $1,200 grant to pay for the headstone, a bronze plaque and the memorial ceremony.

“We have no idea why she was buried in an unmarked grave,” Farley said. “I assume it was because she wanted to be buried by her son, Jackie.”

Rosenthal-Thompson was born June 1, 1859 in Fort Wayne, Ind., the third of 11 children, wrote Robert E. Wilson in his three-volume Grand Traverse Legends, a local history published over the last decade about important people in area history.

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