SISTERS IN THE CITY

Nu Sigma Phi Medical Fraternity



According to the 1923 Baird’s Manual of American Colleges and Fraternities 1923, the Nu Sigma Phi Fraternity’s Alpha Chapter was established in 1898 by female medical students at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, Illinois. The page from the 1910 Indiana University Arbutus yearbook notes the founding date as 1900. They chose green and white as their colors, the rose was their flower, and their newsletter was simply named News.

In April of 1909, the women physicians of Indianapolis formed the Gamma Chapter, which included a section of members who were graduates of medical schools. The women did not intend the organization to be merely a social club. They also expected to promote “scientific research and investigation.” Membership was not limited to Indianapolis doctors, with representation by Crawfordsville and Madison, Indiana. They also chose green and white and their color and the Lily-of-the-Valley as their flower, in 1921 the named flower was the white rose.

At its annual banquet in 1917, it was noted that all the members were Republicans, so they decided to form an additional  organization,  the Women Physicians Republican Club. They agreed that the club would take up such issues of full suffrage, home rule for cities, and a new constitution for the state.

The city hosted the national convention of the organization in 1927, which included tours of the Indiana University Hospitals and the Eli Lilly Company plant.

The women of the charter class had varied careers. Some had already been physicians for twenty years when the Gamma chapter was formed. Some served as missionaries overseas, as staff physicians of public health and social institutions, and were engaged in medical specialties such as laboratory science and anesthesiology.

The Sisters in the City

Mary Spink, M.D.

(c. 1863-1939)

Mary Spink was born in Daviess County, Indiana in 1863, and as a very young woman,  moved to Indianapolis. While working as a nurse at Indiana Hospital for the Insane, she decided to become a physician. She graduated from Indiana Medical College in 1887. At graduation she was awarded the Taylor Anatomical Prize for her excellent dissection work. She was hired by Wm. B. Fletcher to work at his new sanitarium. She eventually became president of the institution. 

(Rose)Urbana Spink, M.D.

(1879-1952)

Urbana followed her sister into Medicine, but she graduated from the Philadelphia Women's Medical School. She also spent a significant amount of her career at Neuronhurst, the Fletcher Sanitorium, and was considered a specialist on the brain. In addition to her medical interests, she also managed many properties owned by her family in the city and elsewhere in the state

Amelia Keller, M.D.

(1871-1943)

Dr. Keller was the first woman  faculty member of the Indiana University School of Medicine. She graduated from the Central College of Physicians and Surgeons in Indianapolis in 1893. An Associate professor of the diseases of children at the  Central College of Physicians and Surgeons in Indianapolis in 1906, she remained on the faculty when the merger of medical schools to form the IU School of Medicine commenced in 1908. She stayed on the faculty until 1919. She did significant work in women’s suffrage.

Luella M. Schneck, M.D.

(1868-1920)

Married at 18, her husband, John, died two years later. While she cared from him during his illness, his attending physician recognized her abilities and encouraged her to enter medical school. After she graduated from the Medical College of Indiana in 1895, she started a successful private practice and lectured at the Indiana Medical College. She was on the staff of the Fletcher Sanitarium, Neuronhurst, and the Indiana Girls School. 

Katherine Ford, M.D.

(c. 1855-1936)

Born in Grant County, Indiana, Katherine A. Corey Ford graduated from the Fort Wayne Methodist Episcopal College and the University of Michigan Medical School. In the 1880s, she served as a missionary surgeon in Fuzhou, China, for five years. She married James Ford in 1890 and practiced medicine in Indianapolis until her retirement in 1930. She returned to Van Buren, Indiana to live with her sisters


Marie Haslep, M.D.

(c. 1866-1936)

A lifelong resident of Indianapolis, Dr. Haslep graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. She served as a missionary physician for the Episcopal Church in China from 1888 to 1895. She was physician for the Women's Reformatory, the county jail, and the city workhouse. She sat on Indianapolis school board for many years; in 1923, she was elected president of the board.

Helen Knabe, M.D.

(1875-1911)

Born in Germany, young Knabe wished to study medicine, but it was not allowed there. He migrated to Indiana and entered the Medical College of Indiana. Her preceptor, Frank Wynn, M.D., directed her studies to areas of pathology, appointing her Assistant in Pathology at the College. She was a talented illustrator and several of her drawings were featured in textbooks. She ultimately was the director of the state's health laboratory and introduced the tests for identifying rabies in animals to the state. She died in 1911, a victim of homicide. 

Lillian B. Mueller, M.D.

(1885-1961)

First woman graduate of the newly formed IU School of Medicine. She went to Detroit for a year to Women's and Children Hospital. She was the national Nu Sigma Phi national  president in 1930. She became an anesthesiologist and worked under the direction of Marie Kast at Methodist until she became head of the anesthesia department at City Hospital in 1940.

She died at age 76 after she contracted bronchopneumonia and septicemia.


Eva Nebecker Kennedy, M.D.

(1882-1964)

Born in Covington, Indiana, her father expected at least one of his two sons would become a doctor. When both died young, Eva took up the cause and received her medical degree from the Indiana Medical College in 1906. She went to Knoxville Tennessee after gradation and directed a sanitarium there, returning in 1908 to marry Dr. Charles Kennedy. They practiced together in the Camden area until her husband died in 1938. She continued caring for the community until she was 82, while driving to call on a patient.


Lillian C. Lowder, M.D.

(1867 -1955)

Dr. Lowder practiced medicine for 45 years. The graduated from the Indiana Medical College in 1898, but also received training in Berlin, Germany.


Alice L. Hobbs, M.D.

(c. 1868-1928)

Graduated from the Central College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1896. She opened a rest home for invalids, the elderly, and maternity cases in East  Washington Street in 1914.


Gertrude Morse, M. D.

( 1872-1944 )

The daughter of a Hanover College professor, she graduated from Philadelphia's Women's Hospital Medical School and died in Tucson, Arizona.


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