All Episodes

May 17, 2024 18 mins

Holly and Tracy talk about how to pronounce Sophia, and speculate about why Jex-Blake didn't pursue an education at New England Female Medical College.

See for privacy information.

Mark as Played

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Missed in History Class, A production
of iHeartRadio, Hello and Happy Friday. I'm Holly Fry and
I'm Tracy V. Wilson. We talked about Sofia Jex Blake
all week long, the whole week. This was one of
those accidental two parters, and it's because I just fell

in love with her. She's great. Yeah, there's so much
to talk about him behind the scenes. One was I
mentioned at the top of the first episode that I
have this sense of identification with her growing up experience
of just being like the outlier of her family and
her parents not understanding her and being like, but why

can you not just chill the heck out? Can you
be quiet? Her being like that, I don't know how
to do that, And I'm like, girl, did your mom
send her letters to my mom? And then my mom
just read them aloud but in a gruffer, slightly angry
or voice. Maybe I felt it in my heart. However,
I will say that Mariah in particular, as much as

she could say things that sounded sort of cruel, she
also wrote deeply lovingly about her children, Like at one
point I was reading a thing that she wrote where
she said, I have learned more from my children than
they have ever learned from me, And she talks about
how proud she is of them, and it's one of
those instances where you just see that, like the relationship

that kids have with their parents is not always fully
reflective of the way parents feel about those kids. I
don't think that's uncommon today, right, certainly not at this
point in time. I also just want to send a
thanks to Safia Jex Blake for being a literal, lifelong diarist.

We have so much information about her and how she
felt about things and what she went through that we
don't often have a historical figures. Yeah, a lot of
times we know somebody's like outward public documented things and
zero about their inner world. Yeah, that's why it was.
It's so moving that when her mom died, she wrote

almost nothing about it, like she could not deal with
that loss at all. I have a really cute story, okay,
from her school years when she was kind of branded
a problem student because of her behavior. There is an
instance I love this story where she and the rest

of her classmates were on like what sounds like a
field trip where they were walking in like a nature
preserve or something, and Sophia got tired, and so she
sat down on a rock and her teacher was like,
you cannot sit down. She's like, but I'm really tired.
I can't keep going. I need to rest. She's like,
you have to keep going, and her teacher, flippantly, I'm presuming,

made the threat that if she did not get up,
she would send for a policeman to physically get her up.
Oh my goodness, Oh you're about to be so in love,
because Sofia's response was, could you send two policemen? Wow?
I love it. I love it. I love it. She also,

in her writing about traveling in the US is very
interesting because her take on what women in the United
States are like versus what they're like back in England
is really interesting because she wrote at one point women
in the US have quote much higher level of learning,
much lower level of outward signs of refinement, all right then,

which her thoughts along those lines actually got used against
her later in some of those arguments about education and
her trying to get access to it, where they're like,
but you say that women that are more educated are
essentially just pigs like that, and she's like, I did
not say that, right, but you're misquoting me, and she
would always defend and like dig in and be like,

I will quote you exactly what I said, which is
not what you're paraphrasing. Pretty great. How did you arrive
at Sefaia as the pronunciation, Well, it is because because
I watched a lot of like there are many, many, many,
like short little leg history clips of people talking about her,

and a lot of them say Sophia, which listen as
a lifelong Golden Girls fan. That's how I tend to
say it. But when they did that twenty nineteen ceremony
where they actually it's quite beautiful, they had current students
stand in as each of the women, Oh nice, and
it was really really lovely, but they all said Sofia, yeah,

every one of them. And I was like, Okay, this
is an official event. I'm going to prioritize this rather
than and like, you know, just people who are randomly
talking about her. Yeah. So that was my There were
others that used Safaia versus Sophia, right, but that was
like the decider for me. Well, I my gut is
that a century earlier there would have been less of

a question about it because Mariah was like the more
common pronunciation then, but by this point there was some
more variety, and I would say now for people living
in the United States specifically, Maria is by far, like
Maria and Sophia are way more common pronunciations than Mariah

and Sophia. Yeah, to the point that, like, I know
for sure, we've had folks that we've talked about that
were like eighteenth century figures who probably said it Mariah,
but we said Maria, or we're probably Sofia and said Sophia.
To the point that when we did that episode about
the SS Princess Sefaia shipwreck, we got a couple people
who were really ugly and calling us idiots for pronouncing

it Safaia. They were like, don't you know how to
pronounce this name? It's so common, And I was like,
this is not how it was pronounced. In this case,
we do, in fact know how to pronounce it, and
it is not what you name. It was not that one. Yeah,
that was my decider for her. Yeah, this is a
very random thing. But you know, anytime I'm doing research

on someone and it mentions an address that they moved into,
you know, I look up that address in modern day
and see what's up. So her cute little room that
she rented, I mean it wasn't really I think it
was bigger than a room. It was rooms her apartment
she rented essentially in New York at two twenty two
East tenth Street. She mentioned I think she was paying

fifty five dollars a month to rent it, which was
a significant amount. I mean, she had she had an
income because she had an allowance because her family was
pretty well off. But even she was like oooh after
that and paying for food, it's tight. Okay, Today, that
same setup at two twenty two East tenth Street, with

two bedrooms, two rooms essentially in one bath is one
point five million dollars. Oh my goodness. Just FYI Yeah.
I mean again, we all know New York is an
expensive city, but I was just like she would bulk
at this. We discussed before we started recording how odd

it is that there is no mention of New England
Female Medical College. Yeah. So, had I not just done
the episode on Rebecca Lee Crumpler, I would not have
even really known an about it for that to have registered.
But like as I remember, there was a lot of

overlap between the hospital and the college, Like there were
members of the board at the hospital that had graduated
from the college, just a lot of connections. I saw
some sources that described the hospital as a teaching facility
for the college, and I was not able to confirm

whether there was that much of an official relationship between them,
like in the time that I was spending on that podcast. Yeah,
So I was like, as I was reading over your outline,
I was like, you are working really hard to try
to get into Harvard. Is I can imagine a number
of reasons that a person might be, like I would
rather go to Harvard than the New England Women's Medical

College or whatever it was called at the time, right,
because it did change its name a couple of times.
But to just not have it mentioned at all, I'm like,
what the only thing I could think of, Well, there
were two things I could think of, But the only
thing I could think of that's supported by actual information
is that I think the college didn't have like a

true established home base facility like regularly, like they were
kind of working in various buildings they could use until
just a little after she would have been in Boston.
So that's my only thinking. If it was in a
period of transition where it wasn't didn't feel quite as

solid and stable, she may have veered away from it. Yeah,
it's also possible that it may have still because it
originally started out as a midwiffery program and then it
expanded into like a full medical program, and it could
be that it still had associations with midwiffery and like

women's health and children, and maybe that was not really
what where she wanted her focus to be as much
this is all speculation. Well, it's such an odd thing.
And like that biography by Margaret Todd is more than
seven hundred pages long. It is detailed, it is in depth.
I read it and really enjoyed it and used a

lot of pieces from it for this episode, and like
for it to never even men shit. Yeah, it's almost
as weird as the fact that Margaret Todd is never
mentioned in the biog was their drama? Yeah, so I
don't know what was going on there. I would like
to talk briefly about dissecting okay, which is something that

I'm admittedly a bit squeamish about, as many people are.
I think two things. One, it is fascinating to me
that she was down with dissecting. She did not have
a problem with it. She wrote about in some of
her diaries, like, no, you just have to focus and
remember that, like it's what you're doing is so delicate

and important, and you don't have time, if you're serious
about medicine to let yourself be squeamish because you really
have to preserve the integrity of the sample. That you
just get focused and it stops being an issue. And
she mentions that like in her dissecting classes at the
University of Edinburgh when they were allowed to do them,
that like those are the classes where other students didn't

tend to mess with them at all. Everybody was pretty
quiet because they were all super focused. I'd love this,
and I'm fascinated by it, and I have deep admiration
for it. I do have never wanted a career in medicine,
so I couldn't handle it. But there is another story
this she tells that is the cutest thing on earth,
where she is talking about while she's at the medical school,

receiving a letter from her I think it was from
her mother, and it got delivered to her while she
was in the dissecting room, and she read it right
there on the spot, and she makes a note in
her diary that is the cutest I think it was
in her diary and not in a letter that to
me was just the cutest thing where she just wrote quote.

It is quaint sometimes to think of the different scenes
in which letters are written and read, like just knowing
that her mom would probably freak out at the thought
of her reading a letter while she stood in this
dissecting room with a half dissected situation going on. Yeah,
I love it so much. I love it so much.
I get a little perturbed at her parents sometimes. I

love it so much. I also I'm backtracking a little.
The reports she would have sent home from schools were
a little flashbacky for me. Mm hmmm, because I can
tell you just about every single year of elementary school,
the report was Holly is a very bright child who

lacks self control every year. So when like, literally it's
like Sufia, it's very smart, but she lacks self control.
I was like, are y'all using the same script? What's
going on in here? And it made me love her
all the more. As I said, she's pretty cool. I
love that she was like, I'm gonna be a farmer now,
and people were like, girl, no, and she's like, watch me,

and she did. She apparently did very very well in
that endeavor and had a lot of success with her
crops and her dairy and living this marvelous, idyllic farmer's life.
Late in life, she according to Margaret Todd, she also
fell into that behavior that allegedly I don't know that

many doctors personally, but you always hear this stereotype that
doctors are the worst about acknowledging their own health issues.
Oh yeah. So we mentioned that she retired in eighteen
ninety nine because she had issues with her heart. She
had had a heart attack, oh wow, and recovered from
it and kind of downplayed it and then had several more,

and Margaret Todd wrote about like there were times where she,
you know, would awaken. Presumably Margaret was the one who
found her the way it's written, but it never says
like I found her in the kitchen blacked out, But
she will say like she came to in the kitchen
blacked out. I'm like, who would know this? But you
if you lived with her, and she would just be like,

well that was weird and go on with her day
like nothing had ever happened, and it would be like
people were constantly like sofaia, and she'd be like, no,
let's go check on those apricot trees. Like she just
was like this is just what it is. Wow. But
that she did stay very youthful, and she carried on
that way for you know, quite a number of years.

Don't do that. By the way, we're not saying that's
a good thing. If you're having medical issues, please see
a doctor. And then there is one issue that is
very unclear to me. I kept rereading the passage that thinking,
am I missing something? Am I skipping a vital sentence
where she's describing that something happened pretty late in her life,

like in the last few years of her life, where
she needed a surgery, but for what I never could surmise.
And the course of action that Safia Jex Blake took
was to call two of the students from the medical
school from her medical school and say, come come to

my estate. Can you do this surgery on me? And
they were like no. So she called another doctor that
she knew, and I think it was a man. He
came and did it. But it was like what, yeah,
just like what I mean it speaks to her faith
in their ability and their education at that point, but

also like what are you doing? And she apparently recovered
and had several more great years after that where she
was very youthful until like just the last couple of
months of her life. But woof, she's made a strong stuff. Yeah. Anyway,
I have great admiration obviously, Yeah, great admiration. And we
got to talk about Bob's Burger's in the the letters

the listener mail segment, which made me cry yet again.
That's a very moving episode. Clearly, if it makes us
all cry just to type or speak anything about it,
it's a good one. And I think it's very much
in line with the ideology of Sophia Jex Blake actually right.
So for anyone who has not watched that yet, that
episode is real good. If this is your weekend coming up,

First of all, I feel like I should shout out
to all medical students and medical practitioners. That's a hard field.
I appreciate you, even if sometimes I argue with you.
That's a personal shout out to my doctor. And but
if you have some time off this weekend, one, if

you have any medical issues and you are able to
please get them checked out. Two. If you have time off,
I hope you get some very good relaxation in chill time,
that you can hang out and eat something delicious and
be with people you love and not be stressed. That's
the dream. Really. If you don't have time off, I
still hope that you can sneak away for a little
bit of time like that, if it's at all possible,

And I hope that everybody's cool to you. We will
be right back here tomorrow with a classic episode, and
then on Monday we will have something brand new. Stuff
you missed in History Class is a production of iHeartRadio.
For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,

or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

Stuff You Missed in History Class News

Advertise With Us

Follow Us On

Hosts And Creators

Tracy V. Wilson

Tracy V. Wilson

Holly Frey

Holly Frey

Show Links


Popular Podcasts

Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.


© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.