I don’t want to gloss over the main point of this article, which is that Eliza “Ella” Flagg Young became the first female head of the NEA, so take a moment to let her great accomplishment settle in. Now there’s something else I found while researching this article that I want to discuss.
For some reason, Eliza Flagg Young comes up in several articles on-line about homeopathy. This excerpt at homeopathic.com quotes from a book called The Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy by Dana Ullman, who also runs the site and is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post. He wrote:
Eliza Flagg Young, MD, a nineteenth century physician, once said, “Every woman is born a doctor. Men have to study to become one.” Although this may be a controversial statement, what isn’t controversial is that women tend to be the primary health care providers in most families. In the vast majority of homes women are responsible for watching over the health needs of the children, and by their shopping and cooking, they are responsible for fulfilling the nutritional needs of the family.
Because homeopathic medicines are considerably more amenable to home care than are conventional drugs, it is predictable that American women have had a history of interest in homeopathy.
Eliza Flagg Young, MD? Was the first female head of the NEA, who dedicated her life to education, also a physician? That seemed unlikely, so I researched further. In fact, Eliza Flagg Young did receive a doctoral degree from the University of Chicago in 1900, but it was a Ph.D in education, not a medical degree.
I found the quote correctly attributed to “Dr.” Ella Flagg Young, as that was her title, in several places including medical books. But I only see the false attribution of an “MD” degree on homeopathy sites. I’m not sure if the error predates Ullman, or if he made the illogical jump himself.
Coincidentally, while researching another article I posted this week about a movement to get kids to stop kissing, I came across a relevant quote by Flagg Young in an Ohio newspaper. Here is the quote (emphasis mine):
The rumor that a campaign was to be instituted in the public schools of Chicago to enroll pupils and teachers in the new organization was met with a denial by Supt. Ella Flagg Young, says the Chicago Inter-Ocean.
“I think more harm is done by directing children’s attention to disease than can be offset by the new ideas advanced by kissing,” she said last night. “As to the merits of the scheme to stop the practice of kissing, I cannot say. I am not a doctor.
Is it really possible that a homeopathic expert didn’t check his facts? That he made an assumption unsupported by evidence? That he found a connection where there is none? That seems so unlike homeopathy.
WOMEN TRIUMPH IN NATIONAL EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION: Mrs. Eliza Flagg Young Placed at the Head of the Organization Heretofore Controlled by Men (PDF)
From July 17, 1910