By: Elizabeth Gritter, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of History, Indiana University Southeast and Alexandra N. Stepp, History Major, Indiana University Southeast
Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890–1920
Rebecca Williams Rogers was born on May 28, 1862, in Pendleton, Indiana, to Elijah Pennypacher Rogers and Ellen P. Dunwoody Rogers. Her parents originated from Westchester, Pennsylvania, and both were physicians. Elijah Rogers left the medical profession to found and preside over the Bank of Pendleton while Ellen Rogers became a well-known physician of the area as well as an active member of the Society of Friends and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Following in her parents’ footsteps, Rebecca enrolled in the Homeopathic Department at the University of Michigan, which was the first university to operate a medical school on a co-ed basis although women attended some classes separately, and she graduated in 1891 with an M.D. She then moved to Indianapolis to practice medicine.
She met her future husband, Dr. William E. George, whom she married there on April 5, 1899. They then operated a medical practice together in the city and worked out of the Marion Building followed by the Pennway building in downtown Indianapolis. Dr. Rogers George specialized in women’s and children’s health, and her husband had a general practice and was a surgeon. In 1898, Dr. Rogers George began teaching at Indiana University in Bloomington as a non-resident lecturer of physiology and hygiene for women and continued in that position until 1912. Her work quickly gained in popularity and was soon incorporated in the regular university curriculum as a course that every female candidate for graduation was required to take. She was one of the first speakers of the IU Women’s League, which was founded in 1895 and provided educational and social programming for league members and the broader campus and Bloomington community. Dr. Rogers George lectured at Franklin College in Indiana as well, and she published journal articles on health issues concerning women and adolescent girls.
Along with being a devoted and respected physician, Dr. Rogers George was an involved member of the Indianapolis community as well as active in state, national, and international organizations. She lectured before women’s clubs throughout the state. She served on a number of boards for various efforts in Indianapolis, including the auxiliary board of workers for the Boys’ Home of Indianapolis that aided in fundraising for the home, the medical board of the Summer Mission for Sick Children that helped emphasize the importance of hygiene, and the medical board for the Indianapolis Fresh Air Mission for Sick Children that advocated for exposure to country air for sick children.
She served as a member of and chaired the health committee of the Indiana State Federation of Women’s Clubs and served on the committee of supervision of probation officers for the Juvenile Court in Marion County as well. She also exhibited an interest in the Colored Girls’ Industrial School and visited it often. Furthermore, she belonged to an extensive number of organizations, including many medically-based groups. In 1895, she served on the Board of Censors for the Indiana Institute of Homeopathy, and she became vice-president of the organization in 1899. She served as president of Indiana State Medical Homeopathic Society from 1900 to 1901, previously serving as its vice president from 1899 to 1900. (Sources conflict, however, whether the Indiana Institute of Homeopathy was the same as the Indiana State Medical Homeopathic Society, but it appears that these organizations were separate.)
She served as president of the Marion County Homeopathic Society from 1900 to 1901. She was also a member of the American Institute of Homeopathy and regularly attended conferences of the International Congress of Homeopathic Physicians. Prominent in social circles as well, Dr. Rogers George saw her travels, including international ones, and social engagements noted by the press. She participated in such social clubs as the Shakespeare Club, Magazine Club, and Present Day Club. She was first delegate of the Monday Afternoon Literary Club to the Indiana State Federation of Clubs and then became president of the literary club in 1912. For the Fortnightly Literary Club, she acted as a delegate to the Local Council of Women.
Dr. Rogers George was especially politically active with the Local Council of Women. In 1901, she joined the civic committee of the organization and later was named chairperson of the committee. In this role and later on the Board of Directors, she wrote to newspapers to advocate for temperance, the closure of winerooms, and the organization’s anti-cigarette crusade, and was a part of the organization’s efforts to obtain enforcement for an anti-spitting ordinance, better salaries for teachers, a female deputy inspector of factories, and a woman on the local school board. The effort to place a woman on the school board sparked the creation of the Woman’s School League, which she helped found.
She also served on the League’s Board of Directors, and was a vice president; the league was successful in helping elect a woman to the school board of Indianapolis. The Woman’s School League morphed into the Woman’s Franchise League in 1911, which became the leading suffrage organization in the state with chapters throughout Indiana. It was a branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Dr. Rogers George was a founding member, a charter member of the board of directors, and a member of the vote committee of the Women’s Franchise League.
In a speech on behalf of the league, she stated, “Women should have the ballot, because they should have a voice in the making of those laws which control their property, their homes, and their children. They need the ballot because the great army of self-supporting women should be in a position to obtain the same wage for the same work as is given men. Women need the ballot because the thousands and thousands of their number without fathers, brothers or husbands to present them at the polls should have representation in government.” In fact, she was admired for her speaking abilities, and it was said in The Indianapolis Journal of her and her fellow suffragist Grace Julian Clarke that they “[exhibited] no self-consciousness in their manner or speech keeping to the subject in discussion, and speaking concisely and effectively.”
In addition to speaking at numerous clubs, she gave presentations at the YWCA, the Women’s Home Missionary Society of Roberts Park Church, the WCTU, Shortridge High School, and the Graduate Nurses’ Association of Indianapolis. One of her common talking points was her call for the inclusion of sex education courses in public schools and private discussions between parents and children on the matter to decrease the extent of sexually transmitted diseases. She also endorsed bicycling, school uniforms, co-educational public schools, and the inclusion of women of color in the National Council of Women.
Dr. Rogers George shared common interests with other female doctors at the time such as a commitment to women’s higher education, involvement in the suffrage and temperance movements, and membership in numerous local women’s clubs. However, Dr. Rogers George did not live to see all her passions become reality, including that of women’s suffrage, although she engaged in crucial groundwork for it. After an illness lasting at least two years, she died at age 51 in her Indianapolis home on 1209 Broadway on April 17, 1914. She was buried in her hometown of Pendleton, Indiana. She was survived by her husband and Harold and Helen Rogers Hand, her nephew and niece whom they adopted and raised after the death of her sister in 1895. Drs. Rebecca Rogers and William E. George had no biological children of their own.
American Institute of Homeopathy. Transactions of the … Session of the American Institute of Homœopathy. Volume 65. Sixty-Fifth Session, Detroit, Michigan, 1909. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=DUlYAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA394&dq=%22rebecca+rogers+george%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjF-t-ln8_cAhVD04MKHTN_DFAQ6AEIODAD#v=onepage&q=%22rebecca%20rogers%20george%22&f=false
Bowman, Sarah. “‘Are You with Us?’: A Study of the Hoosier Suffrage Movement.” Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Butler University, 2016. Accessed July 5, 2018. https://digitalcommons.butler.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1359&context=ugtheses.
“Doctors George Papers.” Finding Aid. Sept. 29, 2014. Indiana State Library. Accessed August 3, 2018. https://www.in.gov/library/files/S1974_Doctors_George_Papers.pdf.
“Frances Morgan Swain and the League of Extraordinary (IU) Women.” Blogging Hoosier History. Indiana University Archives. September 22, 2016. Accessed July 6, 2018. https://blogs.libraries.indiana.edu/iubarchives/2016/09/22/frances-morgan-swain-and-the-league-of-extraordinary-iu-women/.
“George, Rebecca Rogers.” In Woman’s Who’s Who of America: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporary Women of the United States and Canada, 1914-1915, edited by John William Leonard. New York: American Commonwealth Company, 1914, p. 322. Women and Social Movements in the United States database. Accessed June 1, 2018. [LINK]
George, Rebecca Rogers. “The Hygiene of Adolescence–Girls.” The Journal of Adolescence 1, no. 1 (Sept. 1900): 6-8. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=ajkXAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA128-IA3&dq=%22rebecca+rogers+george%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjF-t-ln8_cAhVD04MKHTN_DFAQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=%22rebecca%20rogers%20george%22&f=false.
—–. “The Hygiene of Adolescence–Girls. II.” The Journal of Adolescence 1, no. 2 (Oct. 1900): 46-8. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=ajkXAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA128-IA3&dq=%22rebecca+rogers+george%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjF-t-ln8_cAhVD04MKHTN_DFAQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=%22rebecca%20rogers%20george%22&f=false
—–. “The Hygiene of Adolescence–Girls. III.” The Journal of Adolescence 1, no. 4 (Dec. 1900): 135-42. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=ajkXAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA128-IA3&dq=%22rebecca+rogers+george%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjF-t-ln8_cAhVD04MKHTN_DFAQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q=%22rebecca%20rogers%20george%22&f=false
—–. “The Prevention of Perineal Lacerations.” Homoeopathic Journal of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Paedology 23, no. 1 (Jan. 1901): 21-5. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=C10DAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA592&dq=%22rebecca+rogers+george%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjF-t-ln8_cAhVD04MKHTN_DFAQ6AEILjAB#v=onepage&q=%22rebecca%20rogers%20george%22&f=false
—–. “Protective Information.” The Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy 3, no. 4 (1910): 253-256. Google Books. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=IVRDAQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA252-IA1&dq=dr%20rebecca%20rogers%20george%20protective%20information&pg=PA253#v=onepage&q=r%20rebecca%20rogers%20george%20protective%20information&f=false.
—–. “What I Do for the Mother after the Birth of Her Child.” Homoeopathic Journal of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Paedology 23, no. 6 (Nov. 1901): 523-30. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=IVRDAQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA252-IA1&dq=dr%20rebecca%20rogers%20george%20protective%20information&pg=PA253#v=onepage&q=r%20rebecca%20rogers%20george%20protective%20information&f=false
Gugin, Linda C., and James E. St. Clair, eds. Indiana’s 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2015.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. 6, 1900-1920. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. PDF E-book. http://chswg.binghamton.edu/docs/historyofwomansuffrage_vol6.pdf.
“Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2011.” Database and digital images. Entry for Rebecca Rogers George. Ancestry.com. Indiana Archives and Records Administration Death Certificates: Year: 1910-1919. Roll 12. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/14121738?h=64c957.
“Indiana Marriages, 1780-1992.” Database. Entry for William George and Rebecca Rogers. FamilySearch. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XFNS-889.
Indiana University Archives. Bloomington, Indiana. Selected Documents from the Rebecca Rogers and Rebecca Rogers George folders of the Indiana University President’s Office Correspondence, 1902-1913 (collection C270), Indiana University President’s Office Correspondence, 1913-1937 (collection C286), and Indiana University President’s Office Records, 1893-1902 (collection C174).
Indiana University Bulletin Announcements: Spring Term Announcements 1910. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1910. Google Books. Accessed July 6, 2018. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=6ppGAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA1
Irwin, Robert. Email Message to Alexandra N. Stepp. August 6, 2018.
Kropf, Brittany. “Marie Stuart Edwards: Suffragist and Social Reformer.” Indiana State Library. June 1, 2017. Accessed July 5, 2018. https://blog.library.in.gov/tag/womens-suffrage/.
“Liquor Traffic and Suffrage Are Expected to be Primary Factors.” The Indianapolis Star, 10 February 1912. Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/7458905. Plus additional articles identified through searching on Newspapers.com and the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database. These newspapers were TheIndianapolis Star, The Indianapolis Journal, TheIndianapolis News, The Courier-Journal, The Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram, The Muncie Evening Press, The Star Press [Muncie, Indiana], The Republic [Columbus, Indiana], and The Evening Star [Muncie, Indiana].
“Many Indianapolis Women Who Make Acceptable Public Speeches.” The Indianapolis Journal, 24 April 1904. Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/167660491.
Morantz-Sanchez, Regina Markell. Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
More, Ellen Singer. Restoring the Balance: Women Physicians and the Profession of Medicine, 1850-1995. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. ACLS Humanities E-book.
“News Items and Personals.” The Medical Visitor 15 (April 1, 1899): 239-40. Google Books. Accessed August 3, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=F79XAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA240&dq=%22Rebecca+Williams+Rogers%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiuhPDg4ojcAhVEzIMKHaq2Cj8Q6AEIUzAI#v=onepage&q=%22Rebecca%20Williams%20Rogers%22&f=false
“Obituaries: Rebecca R. George.” Journal of the American Institute for Homeopathy 6, no. 12 (June 1914): 1215. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=2OsBAAAAYAAJ&dq=%22Rebecca+R.+George%22&q=rebecca+r.+george#v=snippet&q=rebecca%20r.%20george&f=false
“Obituaries: Rebecca Williams Rogers.” The Michigan Alumnus 20, no. 194 (May 1914): 475. Google Books. Accessed August 3, 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=thfiAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA474&dq=%22Mrs.+William+E.+George%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiD4J3T3IjcAhXD5YMKHXRMCu0Q6AEIMTAC#v=onepage&q=%22Mrs.%20William%20E.%20George%22&f=false..
“Official Reports of Societies.” The American Journal of Nursing 4, no. 8 (May 1904): 635-648. Accessed July 5, 2018. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3401759.
“Tribute to the Memory of Dr. Rebecca Rogers George.” Indianapolis Medical Journal 17, no. 5 (May 1914): 219-20. Google Books. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=lrZXAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&output=reader&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA219
“United States School Yearbooks, 1880-2012.” Database and digital images. Bloomington, Indiana. Entry for Rebecca Rogers George. 1905. Ancestry.com. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/14127726?h=5f8491.
United States Census of 1870. Pendleton, Madison County, Indiana. Family 51. Household of E. P. Rogers. Roll: M593_336; Page: 132B; Family History Library Film: 545835. Ancestry.com. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/14121604?h=3a58ca.
United States Census of 1880. Pendleton, Madison County, Indiana. Family 502. Household of Elijah P. Rogers. Roll: 293; Page: 303A; Enumeration District: 031. Ancestry.com. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/14121704?h=6775ae.
United States Census of 1900. Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. Family 150. Household of William George. Enumeration District: 0040; FHL microfilm: 1240387. Ancestry.com. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/14121701?h=352fd7.
United States Census of 1910. Ward 8, Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. Family 214. Household of William C. George. Roll: T624_368; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0140; FHL microfilm: 1374381. Ancestry.com. Accessed 6 August 2018. https://www.ancestry.com/sharing/14121672?h=213423.
“United States City Directories, 1822-1995.” Database and digital images. Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana. Entries for Rebecca Rogers George, 1900, 1902-1909, 1911-1914. Ancestry.com. Accessed 7 August 2018.
Webster, Nancy Coltun. “Suffrage Movement Took Root in Indiana in 1859.” Chicago Tribune. March 11, 2016. Accessed July 5, 2018. http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/news/ct-ptb-bicenternnial-women-st-0313-20160311-story.html
“Will George with Pictures.” Personal Papers of Robert Irwin. Copy in possession of Elizabeth Gritter and Alexandra N. Stepp.
Young, Noraleen. “Women’s Voluntary Organizations.” In Encyclopedia of Indianapolis, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Robert G. Barrows (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994): 1448-51. E-book.