Advice from Lydia

When last we left Eliza Baylies Wheaton and her traveling companions, they had arrived in London and taken rooms at a hotel in Holborn. To Wheaton’s great joy, two letters from her friend, Lydia Folger Fowler awaited her at the desk.

A former student at Wheaton Female Seminary, Lydia Folger had married phrenologist Lorenzo Niles Fowler in Nantucket, her home, in September 1844. She had studied medicine at Central Medical College in Syracuse and Rochester, New York, in 1849 and 1850, becoming the second woman to receive a medical degree in the United States (after Elizabeth Blackwell). First principal of the women’s department and then professor of midwifery and diseases of women and children at Central Medical College, Fowler also published books of Familiar Lessons in Physiology, Astronomy, and Phrenology. Fowler also accompanied her husband on a lecture tour of western cities, lecturing to ladies on her specialities. She had a private medical practice and taught medical courses for women in New York City in the 1850s. Lydia and Lorenzo Fowler undertook another lecture tour through the United States and Canada between 1858 and 1860, and in August 1860, they began a two-year tour through Great Britain, lecturing in Liverpool, Newcastle, Perth, and Edinburgh. Biographer Madeleine B. Stern noted that Lydia “found time for a trip to Italy, a winter of medical study in Paris, and a three-months’ stint in charge of the obstetrical department of a London hospital” (181).

Like Wheaton and her husband, Fowler and hers were in London in spring 1862 for the International Exhibition. The friendship between Lydia Folger Fowler and Eliza Baylies Wheaton and the fact that the Fowlers had been touring Great Britain probably contributed to the decision by Laban Morey Wheaton and David Emory Holman to journey to London on business that spring. Lydia Folger Fowler certainly appeared as a significant source of information about the city and about travel in Europe in notations in both the travel journal and the myriad notes that Eliza Wheaton and her husband made during their stay in London.
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Eliza Baylies Wheaton, Travel Journal, Wheaton Family Collection (MC089), Marion B. Gebbie Archives & Special Collections, Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Madeleine B. Stern, Heads and Headlines: The Phrenological Fowlers (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971).

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