It’s hard to imagine that just over a century ago women were still barred from many professions they commonly hold today.
In 1887, Dr. Mary Latham had moved to Spokane Falls in Washington Territory and set up her own practice on the southwest corner of First and Stevens.
She specialized in treating diseases in women and children and was the first female doctor in Spokane.
In observance of Women’s History Month, which was in March, the Fairmount Memorial Association, the Spokane Police Department History Book Committee and the Spokane Law Enforcement Museum honored Latham for her service to the community in a ceremony March 30.
The groups erected a monument at Greenwood Memorial Terrace, 211 N. Government Way, to the doctor who not only served the women and children of the community, but the poor. Latham also helped found the Spokane Public Library and the Spokane Humane Society.
She died of pneumonia at age 72 in 1917 after 28 years of service to the community. Although she had divorced her husband, Dr. Edward Latham, 17 years before her death, she was buried next to him.
The gravestone only reads, “Dr. Edward Latham and Mary his wife.”
“She’s finally going to get the credit that is due her,” Sue Walker, chairwoman of the Police Department’s History Book Committee, said at the dedication.
The monument is part of a project by the three organizations to honor Spokane pioneers. Another monument is dedicated to “Spokane’s Worst Tragedy,” an explosion on the corner of Sprague and Division in 1890. The blast killed 26 men; 15 of them are buried in unmarked places around the monument.
There is a monument dedicated to Sheriff James Glispin, who helped capture Jesse James, and one dedicated to Curley Jim, a Sioux Indian who helped capture a man suspected of shooting the first police officer to die on duty in Spokane, Officer Robert Rusk.
The group plans to honor more local women during future Women’s History Months, .including Catherine Sager, a survivor of the Whitman Massacre in 1844. She is buried in Spokane, and plans are in the works for a monument in 2008.
In 2009, May Hutton, founder of the Hutton Settlement and a supporter of women’s suffrage, will be honored.
“We’ll have a real editing problem when we do May Hutton,” Duane Broyles, president of the Fairmount Memorial Association, said. The monuments tell a brief history of each person or event honored, and the trick is to fit all of the important information onto a small piece of marble.
In 2010, the group wants to recognize Senora Dodd, the founder of Father’s Day and a Spokane resident.
The subjects are researched by Tony and Suzanne Bamonte, two historians who have written extensively about Spokane history. Once the biographies have been written, the groups edit them to fit on the monuments.
Not only does Latham now have a monument just steps from where she is buried, but she also appears on a mural at Shaw Middle School and she is one of the busts of Spokane pioneers that line the production facility of The Spokesman-Review.
The groups will next honor the first police chief of Spokane, Eugene Hyde, on May 10.