Part 1: "Lord in the Morning...."
Part 2: "Work, for the night is coming."
Part 3: "Some poor faint, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save."
Part 4: "I walked in the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses."
Part 5: "And the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright."
Part 6: "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee."
Part 4: "I walked in the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses."
. . . 1
Seven young women entered the freshman class of the Northwestern Medical School in 1903. Of the seven, only two were to complete the course and become doctors. Accredited medical schools were just beginning to admit women, and prejudice against them among the faculty and male students was an almost tangible obstacle. They were ridiculed and made the butt of jokes. Male students would line up along both sides of the stairways leading to upstairs classrooms. As the "hen medics" ran the gauntlet, the men made obscene jokes and absurd kissing noises, accompanied by drawn-out m-m-m-ms. It is a recognized fact, even today, that no group is so tasteless and physical in its jokes as young male medical students. For young women who had never heard such language before, it must have been extremely difficult. If one of the women students entered a classroom after the men had assembled, the men would stamp along with every step she took, and they would rise and sit down with her with a loud bump that shook the amphitheater. In a world where a woman who allowed her ankles to be seen below her skirts was called daring, to have the noise her bottom didnt make sitting down on a wooden stool echo through a public hall must have been embarrassing.
But the real discouragement came, Dr. Ninas notes record, from the attitude of the all-male faculty. The professors never called upon women students in the classes. If one of the women insisted on speaking, uncalled upon, no one listened. When students were assigned to local professional or charitable clinics for practical experience to supplement their theoretical classwork, the assignments went to the men. What became the hardest trial for the morale of the women students was the tacit encouragement by the professors of harassment by male students the half-hidden smile, the busy paperwork just at the time when discipline firmly applied could have brought order. The women had a hard row to hoe.
Of the five who didnt make it, one in particular was interesting. She affected a mannish style in her dress and in her short-cropped hair. This was not an unusual affectation in women medical students. But the girls was a true eccentric. Nothing about the human body, male or female, dismayed her. She tried out the three-legged stools in each classroom the first week of classes and pasted on the underside of a stool in each room her own name written in clear, large letters. So she laid claim to "her" stool, one that seemed to fit best the contours of her spare anatomy. When she entered a classroom, late or early, she found her stool, and if someone was sitting on it, she dumped him off. She conceived a passion, early on, for kidneys, and in her second year was asked by the administration to leave for "insubordination and impertinence" for a continuing battle with one of the professors over the diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases, a battle she even took to the local press. She may have been in the right; medical science advances by small steps through those who question established ideas. She may have been merely an eccentric. Well never know.
The two who did make it through to a medical degree were Nina Case and Stella Harmon. They met in the first week of school and, since both were limited in money for living expenses, immediately moved together to a boardinghouse room near the school. I expect each one separately would have made it on her own, but it surely did neither any harm to face that hostile world together. Stella was a splendid girl calm, intelligent, hard-working, well adjusted, tolerant, and totally disinterested in religion. Nina was at once ecstatic about being where she had so longed to be and sharply defensive about being influenced in any way in her religious life. This new world was, for her, peopled by a different race than any she had known she left her father. To her, all people outside the church were poor misguided souls who, if they did not see and accept the light, would be destroyed and lost forever. To her, what the Lord and the church thought of her was all that mattered. To Stella, what the Lord and the church thought of anybody or anything was of no concern whatsoever. So they could live together, working out their small human everyday problems and helping each other in their studies without either one being a threat to the other. The lectures and the new things Nina was learning sometimes made her wonder and have doubts, but Stella did not make her uneasy.
Perhaps the reason was that their relationship, though warm, was superficial. Nina had been living for years in a world dominated by an esoteric religious philosophy of which Stella knew nothing. Nina had been warned that association with worldly people would undermine her faith. Lasting friendships evolve from candid revelations of self from one person to another, but Nina, protecting her inner life from intrusion, made Stella an outsider and made the relationship between them ephemeral. When their ways were to part, the girls were to separate forever. Stella was never to reappear in Ninas life except as a pleasant vaguely defined memory.
But in their two years of medical school together, Nina and Stella complimented each other in their work. Ninas mind could not grasp everything she learned and translate it into simple, logical language; she never had to cram for exams because she had only to imagine that she was explaining to simple mountain people what she knew to find fixed in her memory everything shed studied.
Stella, who had grownup in a doctors family, found all the complicated medical language familiar. Nina would explain to Stella what they had learned, and Stella would drill them both in the medical terminology for what they had learned. They passed all their examinations with ease.
Although Nina was to tell us stories later about her years in medical school, in all the boxes of notes I found only one description of an actual class. That class was anatomy, This is not surprising. The dissection of a dead human body is a milestone in every medical students education. More than a milestone. The experience is basic training in the objectivity a doctor must learn in order to discipline empathy.
The anatomy laboratory was on the fifth floor of the college. Stella and Nina, the first students to arrive for the first class, looked in through the glass window of the door. The stone-topped tables were bare. As the two girls, scalpels and forceps in hand, pushed open the swinging door, a rush of such foul air surrounded them that they struggled to keep from gagging.
"How terrible!" Nina said. "Did you ever smell anything worse?"
"My father says ones sense of smell quickly gets hardened to anything." Stella held a handkerchief to her nose.
"Well, well smell it for six weeks. I hope hes right."
Nina walked down the room, trying to imagine how she could bring herself to dissect a human body. A gruff voice said, "Heads up!" as one of the janitors came from behind her with a body, arms and legs dangling over his shoulder. "Look out," another man said as she stepped back and stumbled over a body he was dragging by one arm. The bodies were wrapped in preservative-soaked gauze strips. The odor became stronger and the formaldehyde stung her nostrils. She went back to stand beside Stella at the door.
"Isnt it awful? she asked. "How will we manage?"
"Pull yourself together, kid. Dont you dare let on that anything makes you sick. Youll let yourself in for a lot of jokes. We have to do this, so buck up. Lets be nonchalant."
Nina looked at Stellas pinched, white face and started to laugh.
"Oh, Stella! You dont look a bit nonchalant!"
They were both laughing when the first rush of male students came through the door. The men must have been disappointed that the girls were not incapacitated by their delicate sensibilities. How pleasant it is to contemplate the frustration of petty tormentors! The students were busy for the next half hour finding lockers and choosing bodies. There was one cadaver for each pair of students. The two girls chose a body on the table nearest the door so that when the session was over, they could be the first to leave.
Dissection began with the legs of the cadaver. Nina and Stella worked their way around their table and their body, one reading while the other worked, taking turns. Sometime during each day the professor in charge would stop at one table, and then another, taking up a dissected part with his long forceps and quizzing the dissectors about it. A gallery of students from other tables crowded around to listen and to learn. Nina mentioned in her notes that just once in the six-week session, he stopped at the hen-medic table. His stop was brief and his examination was cursory, but it was handsome of him, in that era, to stop at all. But then, even in those olden days, years of honorable recognition often made older men more courtly.
. . . 2
Nina was well into the second semester of her freshman year of medical school when, in April of 1904, a letter came to her from the Illinois Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The letter was signed by Elder Allen, Chairman. He was pleased to inform her that the Conference had found the right man for her to marry. His name was Charles Victor Baierle, he was thirty-seven years old, and he was an ordained minister whose current assignment was the formation of new churches in communities heretofore unvisited by church missionaries. The Reverend Mr. Baierle would notify her of the day of his arrival. He would have only one day to spend in Chicago. The minister of the nearest Chicago church had been alerted to hold himself free to perform the marriage ceremony at Charles Baierles convenience.
Nina said, years later, that Elder Allens letter came as a psychic shock. Engrossed as she was in what she was doing, she had removed from her mind her promise to marry for the salvation of her soul. She hadnt forgotten she had put aside her part of the agreement the way we all pack up inconvenient problems of the past, expecting them to sleep their lives quietly away. But the past never stays quiet for long. It confronts us at unguarded moments, demanding recognition, reconciliation.
The Reverend Charles Baierle arrived in Chicago, and he and Nina met in the early morning in the boardinghouse parlor before Nina left for her classes. It was arranged that they would marry in the late afternoon. Each was reassured by the appearance of the other. The Reverend Charles was a small man with a head just slightly too large for his body; but he was handsome. His hair was dark and wavy, his brown eyes were large and soft. His voice was strikingly melodious. His attitude was gravely impersonal, but he seemed courteous and kind. Nina, her braids gone now, her hair piled neatly on her head, seemed older than her nineteen years. She was nervous and shy, a suitable state of mind, in the eyes of the Reverend, for a young female.
Nina went on to her classes. In the course of the day, two conversations took place. There are notes about them and years later she recounted both conversations to us, her children, in one of our evening story hours. One of the conversations was with a junior-year medical student named Bert Roselle. Nina had rushed down the staircase from her last class and, zipping around the corner to the main corridor, had run full tilt into Bert Roselle, knocking him down.
"Whats the hurry? Why the blind rush?" Bert asked as Nina helped him dust himself off and collect his scattered papers. "Do you always shoot down steps and around corners like that?"
"Im really sorry. Do you think youre hurt?"
"Im not hurt, except for my vanity. Why the hurry?"
"Im to be married in two hours to someone I met for the first time today. Ill never get home in time to dress unless I run." Nina started on down the hall.
"Wait! Did you say married? My God, girl, you cant marry someone youve just met!"
Nina hesitated and turned her back.
But Nina shook her head and rushed on.
Stella was in their boardinghouse room when Nina arrived. "I cant believe you mean to go through with this crazy marriage!" she said as Nina was shedding her clothes.
"Stella, please believe me. I have to do it. Theres no other way."
"There must be another way. You cant marry an old man."
"Im only keeping a bargain. I promised if I could study medicine, Id marry one of their preachers. So they let me study medicine. Besides, hes not an old man. Hes thirty-seven."
"Thats old! Too old for you. And why is this happening now? Why not before? Why not after you finish school?"
"They didnt have anyone before. Now theyve found one."
"But why do you have to marry at all?"
"You wouldnt understand."
"Do you? Do you understand?" Stella was almost shouting.
"I dont know. I really dont know if I understand or not." Ninas bewildered tone made Stella contrite.
"Dont let me upset you, Nina. Its just that when you say you are to marry one of their preachers, it sounds as though it doesnt matter whom you marry as long as its some preacher or other."
"Well, it doesnt really," Nina explained, "because we are only being married in the church so we can work together in church work, not being married as the world thinks of it."
"It sure sounds queer to me," Stella said.
"So it does to me, now." Nina went into the bath to prepare herself for her wedding.
Seventeen years later, on a dark early-winter evening, Nina would tell her three little children about her wedding day. Now, more than half a century later, time seems to fracture into separate layers the way a single ray of light beamed through a prism scatters into separate colors. I am surprised that the words of a Bert Roselle, a young man who was never to appear in Ninas life again, could come down through all the years between. Do we become immortal by accident? And Im interested that Stella, walled off so firmly from Ninas inner life as to become a cardboard character, actually was real enough to push against the barriers to help a friend.
When Nina was telling her three little girls about her wedding day, we were in the front room of a second-floor apartment. To save money, no lights burned. A bright coal fire glowed and flickered in a tiny fireplace. Dark shadows moved as the coals sparkled and shifted in the grate.
"Maybe I should have listened to Bert Roselle and Stella," Nina said, "but I was too inexperienced. Id always had to work too hard to know what other adolescents learn at the normal time. There is a big gap in my life I can never fill with experiences I should have had then." She turned her gaze intently one each of us in turn. "Sometimes Im afraid. Im afraid that when you children are older, I wont be bale to help you because I wont understand, even then, the things you will already know."
She was talking to herself, of course, but we were listening to her emotions. It is a terrible thing for small children to hear their mother admit that she is afraid. Our mother was the only one bulwark we had against the dark of the outside world. We couldnt allow her to be afraid. We urged her not to worry. We assured her passionately that we would never become mysterious, we would always remain understandable. Nina laughed, the fire burned brighter, the shadows were only shadows.
Nina and the Reverend Charles Baierle were married at five oclock in the afternoon. During the cab ride back to the boardinghouse, it was arranged that Charles would pick up Nina after her last exam at the close of school and they would proceed together by train to the Camp Meeting site outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They shook hands cordially at the boardinghouse door and Charles left in the same cab to be on his way to wherever he was going.
. . . 3
Nina and Charles Baierle spent their first night together on a train going from Chicago to Pittsburgh. They had met at the station and had had supper in the cafeteria before boarding the evening train. I dont know what kind of relationship she had expected would evolve that night; she never said. The accounts I find in her notes of that whole summer are meager and they carry overtones of dissatisfaction and dismay. On the train they talked for a while until the porter came to make up their berths. Charles climbed into the upper berth and went to sleep. Nina lay awake all night. The rhythmic clicking if the wheels kept repeating, "Now youve done it! Now youve done it!" To argue back that shed done only what shed promised to do drove away sleep.
Perhaps she had hoped for friendship. Both of them, Charles and Nina herself, knew that their relationship was not to be "worldly." But perhaps she had expected they would be friends. All the next day on the train Charles remained impersonal and preoccupied. When they arrived in Pittsburgh, Charles hired a conveyance to take them and their luggage to the Camp Meeting grounds between Pittsburgh and Union City. They arrived at the reception tent as strange to each other as when they left Chicago.
Some of the elders in charge of the large Camp Meeting were in the reception tent and Nina was introduced for the first time as Mrs. Baierle. They all shook hands and went together to the dining tent for the evening meal. Many more families had come than they had expected, so there was no tent available to accommodate Nina and Charles. The elders helped them carry their baggage to a boardinghouse near the grounds. Nina was exhausted from a sleepless night and a disappointing day. Charles suggested that she rest while he attended the evening camp services. When he had gone, she crawled into bed and didnt awake until Charles had come back and left again for the morning service. He had slept on the other side if the double bed.
Later that day, a horse and wagon took them and the gear necessary for Charless missionary work to the small town of McKeesport. There they were met by the organist and the Bible worker assigned to Charles for the summers work. Together they set up the tent, the board benches, the rickety platform, the pulpit, and the organ. There were two chairs for the platform and three gasoline flare lamps, two for light inside the tent and one for outside to illuminate the entrance flaps. The tent had a sawdust floor, giving it a fresh, woodsy aroma. They began their meetings immediately.
At their first meetings, they sang to empty benches. The Reverend Charles then prayed very loudly so that people on porches of houses near the empty lot they had appropriated could hear him. Then they all sang another hymn. Charles preached his sermon just inside the opening if the tent; his resonant voice carried far and wide. Gradually, people began to drift in. Before the first week was gone, the tent was full every night. After the last worshipper had left, the benches were stacked against the wall and four army cots were set up in the middle of the tent. There they all slept.
Ninas job was to greet people, telling them how glad the tent company was to see them. She gave out programs, and at the close of the service she gave out tracts to take home. In the afternoons she organized childrens meetings. The thing she stressed to us later about that summer was that she enjoyed the children, and their parents often brought wonderful things to eat to the tent. I can safely surmise that the collections were scant and the missionary group was often hungry.
Nina had an additional and more subtle assignment. Emotional young women and, indeed, not-so-young spinsters would have a personal, almost romantic reaction to Charless ministry. After most of the worshippers had left, these women would dawdle around, each determined to outwait the others, to have a private moment with the handsome pastor. Nina would join Charles and he would introduce his wife. The women found pressing reasons to leave immediately. So she served a useful purpose; husbands trusted Charles more and women bothered him less.
No wonder she was dissatisfied with that summer. After her triumphal Southern Camp Meeting tour not so long before, when she had been the featured and acclaimed speaker not only to her own fellow churchmen but also to other large and vigorous social-reform groups, when she had met the challenge of raising a large amount of money, when every day had brought new skills and new successes, the whole summer must have been deadly dull for her.
More than dull. Disturbing. In her notes she mentions that the churchs approach to recruiting new members in new areas was, in those days, devious. In all their posters, flyers, and announcements, not one indication was given that the missionary workers were Seventh-Day Adventists. Always they were holding "evangelistic meetings" and "Bible study" in a "gospel tent." It was not until enough people had agreed to join the new sect that they learned they were joining the Seventh-Day Adventists. To Nina this roundabout technique was offensive. She was then and was to remain all her life a direct person. What was good to do, right to do, or necessary to do deserved to be done openly and directly. This was to be part of her strength in later life, and a real part of her charm. There is something disarming and attractive to all the wary and timid of the world in a person who always makes an unself-conscious progression from a beginning to a logical end.
At the close of the summer, a new church consisting of twenty members had been organized.
Nina returned to medical school in the fall. She was so glad to be back that her pleasure was almost pain. She went about her work soberly and earnestly. She and Stella roomed together, but, as far as I know, Stella never again tried to break through to a closer relationship.
In the second year of medical school Nina found that a new element had entered into her relationship with her professors. Somehow, to them, the fact that she was married made her more acceptable. I suppose because it made her seem "womanly." Instead of being a threatening female who aspired to take the rightful bread from the mouth of some male doctor, she was regarded as a dilettante who was playing a game that would end, of course, back in the kitchen and the nursery.
One of the professors made an attempt to establish a more intimate relationship, but he was routed by her innocence. He proposed that he and the "little grass widow" have some fun together. Nina, having no idea what type of "fun" he had in mind, thanked him warmly for thinking of her. She had too much work to keep up with, she said, to even think of pleasure. But she would enjoy his wonderful lectures even more, now that she knew he was so kind.
The poor professor fled.
Near the end of the school year, when Nina was experiencing and almost physical revulsion at the idea of repeating last years summer, she was offered an assignment to work at the medical dispensary back of the stockyards. The assignment came from the professor in charge of summer work, who had offered the job to every male student in the second-year class. None of them would take it because the doctor hired to run the dispensary was a woman, a graduate of the Womens Medical College of Pennsylvania. Ninas living expense would be paid. The experience in prenatal care she would gain would be of value to her. She accepted the assignment with joy even before she wrote to her husband and the church. Fortunately, they all agreed.
The two women had many problems that summer. They were frequently out on the streets together at night. Their patients were poor, undernourished, heedless; miscarriages were frequent. But the women walked without disaster through the streets of one of the worst slums of that era.
There is something curious and interesting here. In our day, not long ago, a noted psychiatrist published his theory about effective self-defense against criminal assault. He concluded that the weapon that inspired immediate, atavistic, terrifying fear in any human mind, criminal or otherwise, was not a gun or brawn or brass knuckles or an automobile or a bomb or even an ordinary knife, but a long, thin, pointed weapon such as an ice pick. Mans courage when facing a blunt instrument is dangerously misplaced; but when he is facing a thin, sharp, delicately pointed weapon, he knows instinctively that his body can be pierced and destroyed by the weakest hand. Slim, sharp, delicate destruction can end life without notice and without noise.
Our two women, sweeping the slum dirt from the sidewalks of Chicago with their long skirts, knew this long ago. They made their way along the gaslit night sidewalks with reasonable confidence, fully armed. The hats of those days were trimmed with flowers, feathers, felt, ribbons, bows, velvets, buckles, veils, rosettes. To carry such creations, hair was massed and padded inside with clusters of false hair called "rats." To hold everything together, the hats were anchored to the hair with long, thin, pointed hatpins, each with a sturdy knob at the pushing end. When a threatening figure emerged from the dark shadows, the women stopped under the nearest gaslight and adjusted their hats, pulling out and pushing in the delicate bright metal shafts. Danger faded away into the night.
At the end of a great summer, Nina decided to transfer to the Womens Medical College of Pennsylvania. Her association with the doctor in charge of the dispensary had convinced her that there were more opportunities for women to get firsthand experience in the practice of medicine and surgery there than in a male-oriented medical school. She applied and was accepted; then she informed her husband and the church. Having safely provided for her immortal soul, and having safely located her where she would not be lost, both the church and the Reverend Baierle had, naturally enough, turned to other problems and gratifications. They concurred.
I think we must say goodbye now to Nina the child. She was not yet a woman, but she had developed enough skills of her own to recognize herself as a person. If she was still dependent, she was at least making some decisions and making them firmly, before consultation with authority. Today there is a country-music song that claims there are only three things worth caring about, "old dogs, little children, and watermelon wine." Maybe theres a fourth; maybe its young adults, beginning persons who will carry on in the future as in the past, the most fundamental American tradition, amoral force in a jaded, cynical world.
. . . 4
The Womens Medical College of Pennsylvania was founded in 1850. The impetus to establish a medical school for females came from courageous leading doctors in Philadelphia, most of them Quakers, and a handful of brilliant women who had studied with doctor relatives in an apprenticeship relationship and all of whom were denied admittance to existing local schools. They also were denied clinical training in local hospitals. In 1904, the year before Nina transferred to the medical college, Pavilion Hospital was opened by the college. The hospital accepted men, women, and children for medical and surgical treatment. Nina had made a wise move.
Nina was one of three women junior medics who followed Dr. Frederick P. Henry, professor of medicine, down the sun-filled womens ward of Pavilion Hospital. Each of the three students in white coats carried a notebook, a pencil, and a stethoscope. The doctor stopped by a bed, introduced one student to the patient assigned to her, and proceeded on down the ward with the remaining two. Nina was the last to be assigned a patient, a young black girl wasted to a skeleton with fever-bright eyes.
"Martha, this is Dr. Baierle. She will examine you to see if she can find some way to help you."
"All right, Doc. Do you think Im goin to git well?"
"Youll be out of here in no time." The doctors voice was gruff and hearty.
Dr. Henry walked on and left Nina with her first medical case. She looked into Marthas burning, worried eyes and forgot to be self-conscious.
"Do you have pain? Tell me all about how you feel."
"I feel just plumb tuckered out. Im burnin up all the time. I thought if only I got enough to eat Id be all right, but now with lots to eat, I aint hungry no more."
Nina checked over the chart, checked temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. She listened to the wheezy, noisy lungs, palpitated the distended abdomen. During every moment of the examination she was searching her mind to remember from her classwork what disease might show the symptoms she was finding. The next morning she repeated the examination, and reported to Dr. Henry. With a tremble in her voice, she gave her diagnosis, "galloping consumption."
Dr. Henry broke up. He laughed so loudly that his secretary peered in at the door. His amusement finally subsided enough for him to ask, "And what might that be, speaking in medical terms?"
"Acute miliary tuberculosis." Nina was abashed by the folk term she had used.
"Right you are." Dr. Henry was still smiling. He became grave. "She wont be with you long. I looked in on her early today and shes close to death."
"Dr. Henry! Cant we do something?"
"No. It was too late when she was brought in. She had been too long without food or care. When she is dead you will do an autopsy and confirm your diagnosis, write up your findings, and present them to me with the others you will have during this semester." Noting Ninas troubled face, he added, "Dont worry about it. Youll get used to seeing them die. We cant save them all."
Nina was restless and unhappy after she left the office. She was studying medicine so she could cure her patients, and the very first one was going to die. She went back to the ward and sat down by Marthas bed. In doing so, she was acting exactly as any medical student, even today, acts to help a patient with words when authority, in the guise of the attending physician, has accepted the reality of medical limitations. Anyone who has ever been in a teaching hospital when new medical students start on their first day with the first patients recognizes the intense rejection of experienced opinion that drives the novice back to one patient or another again and again, as though willing the stricken to perform his own miracle.
"Youre good to come again," Martha said. "Doc Henry always says Ill git better soon and I dont believe any more. You never say that to me."
"No, Martha, I cant tell you youll be better soon. Martha, are you afraid to die?"
"Oh, yes, Doc! Im terrible afraid. Ive been bad. Ill go to the bad place sure as hell."
Nina leaned over and took Marthas thin, hot hand. "Listen, Martha, nobodys really good. Were all bad. Only God is good. He is good and very kind. Hes looking at you now and He says, Martha, you never had a chance. Im going to let you sleep for a little while and then Im going to give you a new life. God doesnt see any of us as we think we are. He sees you, now, as you would have been if youd had a good home, and love, and education. He knows more about your beautiful, patient soul than you know about yourself."
"I like your God," Martha said.
She died just before dawn the next day. Nina went down to the autopsy room, where she did the hardest thing she would ever have to do as a doctor her first autopsy on her first patient.
. . . 5
In the summer of 1906, between the third year of medical school and her final year, Nina worked at the Barton Dispensary in South Philadelphia. Both the church and Ninas husband again had agreed that the experience would be too valuable for her career to be put aside for summer church work. Her joy in the work she did that summer in the slums of South Philadelphia was double because of her freedom.
On her return to school in September she found that a financial emergency awaited her. Dr. Clara Marshall, dean of the Womens Medical College, had received a letter from the Illinois Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church stating that no further tuition would be paid for Nina Case Baierle by the church. The withdrawal of support was occasioned by a complaint from Dr. Kellogg that Nina had failed to fulfill an oral agreement with him that she would sell his new magazine Good Health every summer between school years. Nina was stunned. She was also angry.
Ninas defense of her right to a medical education paid for by the church was white-hot. A record of her response is in the files at the Womens Medical College. She marshaled her defense in depth the way a lawyer assembles his arguments in a case. She began by denying absolutely that she had made any such agreement. She pointed out that had she made such an agreement, the logical time for Dr. Kellogg to claim her compliance would have been at the beginning of one of the two past summers, not at the end of the last summer she would have between school terms.
She then argued that had she made such an agreement (which she had not), the payment of her tuition was arranged in consideration of her work for the church before entering medical school and was therefore in no way dependent on any work she might do later. She pointed out that she had brought in thousands of times more money than her modest tuition cost by dramatically increasing the circulation of Lifeboat. She made it clear that the salary and commissions promised her for her Lifeboat work, but never paid, exceeded her medical school expenses. She ended her defense with a blazing "I Protest," capitalized and underlined.
The church backed down. Her tuition was paid for her final year. But the breach that was to come later between Nina and the Adventists had its beginnings here. Where there is only authority and obedience, trust once severely damaged does not recover its lost purity and force.
Almost before she could believe it, the years of medical school were over the grinding study of books on anatomy, psychology, chemistry, practice of medicine, pharmacology, embryology, pathology, surgery, mental diseases, sanitation; the supervised operations and ward practice; the laboratory work; all the facts and techniques that must be learned before controlled intuition can assist knowledge in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. She sometimes felt the thought patterns inside her head were like hemlock boughs in a storm in the forest, everything moving and waving and tossing in winds from every direction. It was not until early June of 1907, when final examinations were over but graduation day was still a week ahead, that the time to think about her own future arrived the way a windless oppressive day sometimes follows a summer storm.
She seemed to herself to be a stranger in a foreign land. The church, her husband, and "saving the world" seemed far away. Even the language of the church seemed to have lost its early comprehensibility. Just as Elder Allen had feared, she had drifted away from a narrow viewpoint. Indeed, the church was right to fear worldly medical schools. And Elder Allen was wrong in trusting that marriage would save Nina from the fate of the young men who had gone to medical school and who had been lost to the church. I think the church had assumed that the Reverend Charles Baierle was maintaining a supportive relationship with his young wife. But Ninas husband had had no relationship with her at all during the past three years. He was a dropout from his assigned task of keeping Nina from becoming lost.
Nina was afraid. It is difficult to leave old ways behind before new paths are clear, but it happens to us all at one time or another. "We wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness."
Nina had received a call from the church (a call seems to have been an authoritative order given with no thought of noncompliance) to go to the Seventh-Day Adventist Sanitarium in Melrose, Massachusetts, for further training in obstetrics and surgery. She didnt want to go. The show hospital of the church, Battle Creek Sanitarium, recently had passed out of Seventh-Day Adventist control. The church authorities, depressed and disheartened by the loss, had tightened up medical procedures in the other, smaller sanitariums to conform more strictly with church dogma; new medical practices, which had crept in almost unnoticed, had been banned. What Nina really wanted to do was to live with her husband, open an office for general practice, and start being a doctor free to use all of the healing techniques she had learned. Hoping for support from Charles, she asked him to come for graduation so that they could discuss her future; in her mind, their future.
Graduation exercises were held in the Philadelphia Academy of Music. For Nina it was a solemn occasion. When she took the Hippocratic oath, she knew she was joining an order to which she could subscribe without reservation. She took her state boards a few days later and was licensed to practice medicine and surgery.
Charles Baierle had come. He was enthusiastic about her call to Melrose, Massachusetts.
"But what are you going to do?" Nina asked her husband.
"Why, go on with my work, of course! Ill come up to Melrose occasionally; things will work out somehow later on. I have plans that will let us work together. Get all the experience in sanitarium work you can. Watch everything connected with the running of the place. Who knows! Maybe youll have a sanitarium of your own to run someday."
"I dont want to run anything." Nina was speaking the truth. "I want to open an office and start in private practice."
"This is a poor time to think of such things." Charles said sternly. "You have a great opportunity before you to become a power in the church. How can you wish to work for the world?"
Nina was still a beginning person, still not quite her own woman. Because she was uncertain and afraid, she accepted authority once again.
"Ill go, all right. Im only thinking I would like to work in a more personal way with patients than just to order baths and diets under the strict rule of a sanitarium."
Charles professed to be shocked at the implied criticism of church policy. He prayed aloud for her that she might feel gratitude to those in authority over her.
A little friendship, a little warmth, a little personal concern sometimes works wonders, but prayer without loving-kindness does not, I think, work at all.
. . . 6
When Dr. Nina arrived at the Seventh-Day Adventist Sanitarium in Melrose, a surprise awaited her. The Leeland family, with whom Nina had lived in Williamsport, were all working at the sanitarium. Brother Leeland was the business manager. Sister Leeland was the dietician and housekeeper. Myra Leeland was the head of the nursing staff and director of the nurses training school. Such coincidences occur, but they never cease to create a sense of wonder. Its a small world. The world of the church in those days was indeed small. In any church with a limited number of paid employees, the organizational structure is apt to be heavy on theologians and light on administrators. Brother Leeland was a trained administrator who had proved himself in managing the churchs central printing plant. It is not strange that he should be moved periodically to wherever the need for skills in short supply was most acute.
It seemed strange to Nina to be welcomed in Massachusetts by the Leelands of Pennsylvania. There was a short period of awkward readjustment as a different pattern of relationship between them all was established. Nina was no longer the child, the twig that must be bent in the way she should grow. She was Dr. Nina, a member of the hospital staff, which put her near the head of the pecking order. Outwardly, at least, the Leelands treated her with the respect and deference due to her position, although the time was not far off when Brother Leeland would array himself against her and with her enemies.
A unique and distinctive feature of the Seventh-Day Adventist hospitals in those days were the "sanitarium treatments." Modeled on the Kellogg plan, they included hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, various mechanical devices, revulsive treatment by heat and cold for many ailments, electric treatments with galvanic violet ray and static electricity, massage, and, of course, always diet, upon which great emphasis was placed. The use of medicines was allowed, but only those products produced by nature and, of those, only natural medicines that were not habit-forming. The core of the medical staff was made up of Seventh-Day Adventist doctors, but doctors from outside the church were allowed to admit and treat their patients as in any other hospital. Not very many "worldly" doctors sought the privilege. Most of the hospital patients were nervous, stubborn people who had worn out the tolerance of their families, and whose own doctors had put them in the sanitarium out of weariness and professional exhaustion. Some of the patients brought themselves to the sanitarium after being treated by several doctors without benefit. Nina would discover, after she had been at Melrose several months, that very few obstetrical patients came to the sanitarium.
So it was with interest and excitement that she responded to a letter from the matron of the Florence Crittenden Home in Boston. The home, a haven for unwed pregnant girls, had long wished for a woman doctor to handle the obstetrical work of the institution. The matron asked for an interview with Dr. Nina. Nina arranged to go in to Boston.
The two women liked each other on sight. The matron outlined her idea for a small private maternity clinic solely for the use of the girls who lived at the home. The Florence Crittendon board had purchased an attached building next to the home. The matron proposed to cut doors through on each floor. She envisioned treatment rooms and an office on the ground floor, a delivery room and three patient rooms on the second floor. Thus they could care for the girls and deliver the babies under one roof, without sending the girls out to public hospitals. She had already sounded out two of the members of the Crittendon board and was sure the board would agree to pay for remodeling. The problem she had not solved was how to equip the clinic once the work was finished.
As the two women wandered around the unused building, assessing its possibilities, Nina found that she wanted a small maternity clinic more than shed wanted anything for long time. She had come to Massachusetts for additional training in obstetrics and she wasnt getting it. The students in the sanitarium nursing school had almost no opportunity for experience in obstetrical nursing. It was a serious drawback for them, since most babies were born at home and nurses with obstetrical training were in constant demand.
Nina suggested that the matron get a firm commitment from the Crittendon board to remodel. Nina would propose to her sanitarium board that the hospital undertake to equip the building and arrange for each student nurse to have a month each year at the maternity clinic as a required course before graduation. When she left to go back to Melrose, both women were full of hope and enthusiasm. They were two of a kind, and achievement often grows out of the meeting of like minds.
A week later the matron called. Her board would remodel. The building would be ready in three months. Nina sent her proposal in writing to Elder Herman Bitterman, the chairman of the sanitarium board, along with a request to be allowed to attend the next board session to explain and defend her plan. Her request was granted.
At the meeting, when the subject was opened for discussion, Brother Leeland was the first to object. "How can we take on something like this when we cant get our own institution out of the red?" The sanitarium was not paying its way and the New England Church Conference had to come up with a subsidy each month to make up the deficit.
Nina was ready for the question.
"This clinic will be of real benefit to our nurses training school. It also will be a wonderful advertisement for our sanitarium to the world. We will gain friends and prestige in medical circles. And it need not cost us a cent. I believe I can furnish the medical equipment for the clinic if I can have two afternoons free each week for the next three months."
"How?" Brother Leeland was skeptical. "Surely you cant do this out of your salary!"
Nina was somewhat bitter about her salary. She was paid $100 a month, but the money was sent to her husband.
"No, I cant. But Ive had some experience in selling. I propose to go to manufacturers and merchants and to benevolent people of the city of Boston. Ill ask for donations of equipment and money."
"Thats a big order for one person. It will be a tough job," commented Elder Bidwell, the sanitarium chaplain. "Youll have to have a hot-water heater, bathtub, shower, a tubular treatment table, beds, linens, towels, sterilizers, dressings, rugs, dressers, basins, and many other things."
"I know. I discussed how to manage it with one of the Boston doctors who has a patient here at the sanitarium and who has had a lot of experience with social work in Boston. He tells me that money for the Crittendon Home is relatively easy to raise right now. The wealthy, prominent families of Boston have made a hobby of the Crittendon idea. Helping unwed mothers instead of punishing them, he says, is the newest thing, almost a social fad. Since the maternity clinic will help the home and also will be a training ground for obstetrical nurses, I think I can get the donations."
Elder Bitterman was impressed. He suggested that Nina be allowed to see what she could do in outfitting the clinic. The rest of the board agreed, and she was dismissed from the meeting.
She decided to start immediately. Indeed, she was a little frightened at the scope of the project. She arranged to go to Boston the next afternoon to make a beginning.
Elder Bitterman also was returning to Boston that day to take a train to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he lived with his wife. He invited Nina to share his carriage. Elder Bitterman was not your run-of-the-mill churchman. He was tall and slim, and he wore his fine-quality clothes with the casual suavity ordinarily reserved to sophisticates. At forty-three, he had already made a meteoric rise in the church hierarchy. A convert only seven years ago, he now not only was the chairman of the Melrose sanitarium board but also held the more prestigious office of chairman of the New England Church Conference. He was ambitious. He was charming. He was interested in Nina. He found her amusing and different.
As they rode onto Boston, Nina proposed that he head the list of subscribers to the clinic by donating a treatment table, six chairs, and a shower. All of these items were stored unused in the basement of the sanitarium. He decided he had a right, as president of the board, to make such a donation. She immediately put his name and donation down at the top of her subscription list.
During the next three months while Nina was collecting donations, Elder Bitterman came to the sanitarium with unusual frequency. He always stopped in Ninas office to hear about her progress. Sometimes Elder Bidwell accompanied him, but usually he came alone and stayed long, comfortably chatting. Nina felt she had made a friend and a most attractive friend. At the end of the three months the clinic was fully equipped down to a brass sign over the door. The clinic opened and for the next year Nina, her nurses in tow, moved back and forth from Melrose to Boston, a busy young woman with interesting work to do. She delivered fifty-seven babies in the first six months alone, fifty-seven new lives unwanted by the young mothers who had conceived them. It was then that she realized, she told her children later, that if she were ever allowed to have children, she would want them very much.
The clinic and the sanitarium patients were not her only preoccupation. Dr. William James, founder of the department of psychology at Harvard and a brother to Henry James, brought a patient to the sanitarium, a very special patient, one of the earliest multipersonality cases in psychiatric history. Nina was fascinated with the patient. Dr. James, whose Principles of Psychology had been published in 1890, made her a gift of all his books. He was pleased to discuss his general ideas with this bright young woman, as well as to share his views with her about his multipersonality patient.
Mother never said what the other Seventh-Day Adventist doctors and nurses thought about such a patient. The Three Faces of Eve and Sybil had not yet made it easy to believe that more than one personality could inhabit a single body. I would not be surprised if the general opinion at the sanitarium were that the patient was possessed by devils. I wonder how many prayers were said, when Dr. James wasnt there, asking that the demons leave her body and cast themselves into the nearest running water.
Nina was having a problem about money. The problem was that she had none. She had remonstrated with Brother Leeland about sending every cent of her salary to her husband. Brother Leeland was adamant. Of course her salary should go to her husband. Brother Baierle could then, in his wisdom, decide how much was suitable to return to his wife. The hospital furnished her board, room, laundry, transportation, and uniforms. But the trips back and forth to Boston made it necessary for her to have respectable clothing, and her shoes and gloves and dresses were wearing out.
She started writing stories for a New York newspaper. In those days, many newspapers ran continued stories in their Sunday editions. Inspired by Dr. Jamess patient, every week she wrote one story, a three-to-four-thousand-word episode, called The Girl with a Hundred Personalities. She enjoyed the writing, and the paper sent her $10 a week. With Brother Leeland nearby, she said nothing to anyone about her writing project, and kept the current episode on which she was working locked away in her room. She never forgot that he had forced her to burn her first stories.
She also was trying her hand at writing poetry, love poems about loneliness and loss and empty arms. Indeed, Nina was no longer a child. At twenty-four she was about to become a woman at last, even though a naïve and inexperienced one, but only after such a grotesque series of events that to become her own person was the only alternative to being nothing at all.
. . . 7
In October, Nina received a summons to appear at the regular monthly meeting of the sanitarium board. When they were all assembled, Brother Leeland opened the discussion. He was never slow to give credit to anyone who had done a good piece of work for a cause that, in his eyes, was worthy.
"I have a suggestion to make. Dr. Nina has done a wonderful job with the maternity clinic. If she can do that, why not let her raise money to lift the burden of debt the sanitarium itself is struggling under?"
"What do you think of that, Dr. Nina? Any ideas?" asked Elder Bitterman.
This was heady stuff for the young woman. Elders of the church, very important persons, deferring to her, asking her opinion. She had to come up with a suggestion, and she did. She proposed that they write to all the Seventh-Day Adventist churches in the New England Conference. Each should arrange a Sunday-night meeting in its locality according to a schedule Brother Leeland would draw up.
"Have them hold the meeting in a public hall, not in the church, and invite the public to come. There should be three speakers at each meeting Elder Bidwell on The Sanitarium Idea, Elder Bitterman on The Clinic Work of the Sanitarium, and the woman doctor, me, to promote rescue work in the Boston area modeled on the Chicago pattern. A silver offering would be collected to further the work of the Sanitarium Idea."
Her suggestion was received with enthusiasm. After several changes and additions, a motion to proceed was passed by the board. Brother Leeland was instructed to draw up a schedule and send out the letters.
Herman Bitterman spent more and more time at the sanitarium. There is no doubt that he imagined himself to be in love. Charming, ambitious, forty-three-year-old married men often mistake infatuation for something more important than it is. He and Nina were temperamentally suited to each other, and he felt himself to be attractive to her. When his religious beliefs came into conflict with his growing desire to be near her, he could assure himself that nothing had happened and nothing would happen to bring him to actual sin. I doubt if he thought deeply enough about his feelings to realize that a slow drift into an aimless emotional attachment can do great damage to a mature person. Elder Bittermans preoccupation with Nina was becoming dangerously close to an actual obsession.
Nina, busy in all directions at once, was not obsessed with him, but she was gratified by his interest in her projects. She really liked the man. One afternoon she arrived back from the Boston clinic to find him waiting in her office, a page of her short poems in his hand. He had been rummaging through the papers on her desk. Nina was terrified for a moment that she had left the latest episode of her newspaper stories where it could be found. She felt great relief that was poetry. He rose at once.
"I was waiting for you and just happened to look at this writing. I hope you dont mind."
"Im afraid youve been wasting your time. My writing isnt inspired, you know. Its my way of relaxing."
"The one, At the Bird Theatre, Daybreak, is beautiful. It sounds like a love poem. What does it really mean?"
"Oh, thats something you must see and hear. One night last spring I couldnt sleep so I took a walk around the lake."
"What! Five miles around the lake in the night, alone?" he asked incredulously.
"It wasnt very dark, the moon was full, and I didnt go all the way around. I only got as far as a round hill two miles away, toward Stoneham. I sat down to rest on a log and to watch the first light of dawn. One bird chirped, then another whistled, and almost at once the hill was calling and twittering as though all the leaves of the trees had come alive. There were hundreds of birds. It was the loveliest sound Ive ever heard. Later I made up a party Miss Myra, two other nurses, and several patients. They went with me to hear it. Next year I hope we can take every patient who can walk."
"You like to write, dont you?" he asked. "I would love to read other things youve written. Its a gift. You shouldnt hide it."
The schedule of fund-raising events at every Seventh-day Adventist church in the New England Conference was soon drawn up, and the three speakers the chaplain, Elder Bitterman, and Nina set out for the first of their weekend meetings designed to erase the sanitarium deficit. Each weekend during February and March they were in a different part of New England. Funds began to come in not only from the silver offering but also from larger contributions sent by people who became interested in the Sanitarium Idea. More patients came to the sanitarium.
It was a heady time for Nina. She was generally admired, but it was the increasing admiration of Elder Bitterman that brought a glow to her heart. They were seldom alone together, but when they were, the elder always asked for more of her original work to read in solitude. I suppose that in his state of infatuation, to have something uniquely hers with him during the weekdays of their separation was gratifying. Give me your rose and your glove. Nina didnt think it wise to give him any more of her poetry. She planned to write a series of short articles on religious subjects that would be suitable to dole out to him, but after the first article, which he professed to find enthralling, the demands on her time by the sanitarium, her Boston clinic, and the weekend tours made it impossible to continue turning out new material. When he kept begging for more, she started giving him copies of excerpts from The Girl with a Hundred Personalities. She chose mild and general parts of episodes that would not disturb him. She was sure he never read the part of the Sunday paper where continued stories were printed, so she never told him the excerpts had been published.
No human relationship stands still. The status quo between one person and another is impermanent, always shifting toward deeper involvement or toward the blank alienation of indifference. The most delicate and intelligent maneuverings to keep a relationship static fail. Whatever Elder Bitterman had in mind to do with his increasing obsession with the little doctor, chance took the decision out of his hands. The three speakers were returning from their last weekend fund-raising meeting. They arrived by train in Boston early one evening in late March.
At North Station a Western Union messenger boy found them and delivered a telegram to Elder Bidwell. Remember the days of Western Union messengers? They could find anyone anywhere in stations, trains, hotel lobbies, movie houses. An ingenious bunch of boys who always, with pride, got their man. Elder Bidwell was needed in Lancaster for a funeral. He took the next train out for Lancaster. Nina and Herman Bitterman took the local together for Melrose.
At Melrose they set out to walk the mile and a half to the sanitarium. It was a beautiful night, cold and still, the moon over the bright, white snow. The road wound through dark-shadowed copses and over little icy, rushing streams. The snow crunched and squeaked under their boots. When the sanitarium came into view they climbed a bypath that would take them to a side door. At the top of the rise, laughing and breathless, they stopped to rest.
"Makes one think of Christmas, doesnt it?" Nina asked.
"It makes me think youre beautiful!" exclaimed Elder Bitterman. He gathered her to him and with gentleness and passion he kissed her. Nina kissed back.
This is not a startling pornographic scene. These two people, booted and heavy-coated, begloved and bescarved and both with hats, had no human contact except for their cold faces and warm lips. For any other two persons, such a scene would not be worth recording. Whats a kiss? A pleasant, warming moment for tow people who like each other.
But for those two it was shattering. Elder Bittermans desire was fed at the exact moment when his confidence in being able to remain free from sin was destroyed. Nina learned for the first time that to sexual invitation there can be a chemical response that has a force of its own, ungoverned by moral precepts. Dr. Nina and Herman Bitterman, aghast, stared at each other in the light of the cold moon. Nina turned away, went into the sanitarium, and on to her room.
Elder Bitterman left early the next morning and was seen no more that week at the sanitarium. Elder Bidwell returned on Friday night. It occurred to Nina that a chaplain was one to whom one could go when doubt and confusion depressed body and soul. She decided to confide in Elder Bidwell.
That was a mistake. We all have made the mistake, one time or another, of speaking when silence would have allowed events to straighten themselves out; of confessing to what is better kept hidden from confessors who may act with a dearth of wisdom or an excess of zeal. But how could Nina have known? She was inexperienced in romantic misery and had never transferred an emotional problem to the care of another. With almost incredible naiveté, she told him simply and frankly everything that had happened.
He was reassuring: "My dear, I believe you. Im sure you had no evil thought. We have made a mistake in making you so prominent and letting you take a mans place. Women in the church should be seen and not heard. Its our fault as yours, because I believe you are innocent and unawakened. We will pray that nothing more will come of this."
I can only surmise, in the knowledge of events that occurred rapidly after their conference, that Elder Bidwell, in spite of his prayers, made it inevitable that a great deal would come of this. He must have confronted Herman Bitterman; there is no other rational explanation for what Elder Bitterman did next. Perhaps Elder Bidwell warned him of what would happen if any more nonsense took place there would be a woe unto Elder Bitterman. In any event, Herman Bitterman asked for a church trial. He acted exactly as many charming, forty-odd-year-old husbands have done when their careers and their domestic tranquility were threatened; in panic, he decided that his best defense was to attack.
Or perhaps the reason for what happened next is not so simple. Elder Bittermans decision to ask for a church trial on the charge that Dr. Nina had bewitched him could have been prompted by someone in the church hierarchy whom he had consulted and who was intent on bringing about Elder Bittermans downfall. The politics among church officials, as among university faculties, can be as sly and convoluted as the politics among contenders for power in the larger national arena.
Or perhaps the ghost of some old New England witch hunter, drifting around in the barren, colorless air of a more rational era, recognized a kindred spirit and urged him into folly. For whatever reason, Elder Bitterman decided to attack. It was a mistake that was to take him all the way to Asia and to make Nina her own person at last.
. . . 8
For the entire week after she talked to Elder Bidwell, Nina went about her work mechanically, in a miasma of despondency and unrest. She was lonely. She also was reassessing her life and her feelings, and assessing what she could rightfully and modestly expect from the future. Nothing was reassuring. She recognized that something was the matter with the life she was leading. Her patients who liked her and responded to her professional care were not her friends; with cure they disappeared. She could not give the benefit of knowledge she had gained in medical school to those patients who were not responding to the strict sanitarium regimen because she was prohibited from applying worldly remedies. Her clinic in Boston was going well. But she had no one to laugh with or have fun with or talk to. And look what happened, she thought ruefully, when I did have someone. She felt herself to be tied up by the church, to be, at age twenty-four, married to the church.
But she was also married to a man. Perhaps there was hope there. She and her husband had had a friendly and courteous relationship; perhaps their relationship could be broadened and deepened and made a bulwark against loneliness and futility. If both were willing to try, couldnt their marriage, already sanctioned by the church, be meaningful and rewarding for them both? They could live together. They could have children. If they were never to be in love with each other, they could learn to love in a different way as they shared the joys and responsibilities of parenthood.
In the olden days, in the Bible, she thought, when a man died his brother or kinsman took up his duties as a husband, and if children came from the new union, the kinsman raised the children for his brother in his brothers name. Few of those bereft woman could have been in love with their brothers-in-law. But the law provided for their right to have children so that life could go on. Look at the account of Ruth and Boaz. And, she thought, if she had some human warmth, some human contact with the husband who was joined with her forever, she would be safe from the wickedness that lies deep in every human heart, even in her own.
She decided to ask her husband to come to Melrose. But on Monday, as she started her morning hospital rounds, she came face to face with him. What a wonderful coincidence that Charles should come just when she wanted to talk with him! Then Nina noticed that he was pale, stern, and tight-lipped. They arranged to meet at noon after her office hours.
"How does it happen that you came today?" she asked when they met outside the nurses home. Charles had been grimly pacing the snowy walks.
"I was sent for by the Conference Committee." Nina looked at him with pleasant inquiry. How her husbands work in Pennsylvania could be involved with the New England Church Conference was unclear to her. "You know very well why I have come," he added with anger. "Ive come to attend your trial."
"My trial?" Nina was puzzled. "My trial!" She was alarmed. "What could you mean? Ive heard nothing about a trial!"
"Well, youll soon hear more. The committee meets tonight, and Dr. Alice Hunter came up with me on the train from Washington to take over your work for you while the boards in session."
Nina sank down on a nearby bench. "I dont understand. What have I done? Nothing has happened. My work is going along fine, my patients are getting well, the clinic is doing wonderful work. What can it be?"
Brother Baierle took a letter from his pocket and handed it to her. Dr. Nina kept a copy of it among her notes.
Brother Charles V. Baierle
Dear Brother Baierle:
I hesitate to write you this letter. A condition of affairs developing out of your wifes actions has created a situation here in the Sanitarium that makes it necessary for the sake of the cause to take action.
The Conference Committee meets Monday evening at 8:00 oclock in Faneuil Hall, Boston. Your presence is desired. Come as much in advance as you can.
Elder Danforth and Elder Striker of the General National Conference Committee in Washington, D.C., will also attend to advise and counsel.
We want you to know, Brother Baierle, that none of us hold you to blame for this situation. Dr. Baierle has done some very fine work; she is very talented and has helped to make our work prominent and noticed throughout the New England Conference.
We have learned that she has been writing a series of stories for a New York newspaper that are the most irreligious, heretical writings imaginable, full of earthly passion and wickedness. Judging her from the standpoint of these writings, we can now see what we took for innocent enthusiasm is really an evil influence. We dare not subject our nurses and workers to it.
Elder Bitterman, President of our Conference, has confessed to his wife and to us that he has been spending two-thirds of his time at the Sanitarium, neglecting his work, because he has been bewitched by Dr. Baierle. She has written him the same kind of romantic revelations of her inmost self that has appeared in the stories she writes for the newspaper. This has threatened to undermine his home, his position, and his spiritual life. After much fasting and prayer, he and his wife decided to ask the Conference Committee to help clear it up.
He is putting his life in our hands. While not committing any outward sin, he feels he has betrayed his position, his family, and his God by his unholy infatuation. He has turned over to us the material she has written to him, which will be presented at the meeting.
May God work things out in the right way to save the Sanitarium and the Church from being discredited in any way.
Elder G. A. Bidwell
Nina sat on the cold garden bench trying to understand what this monstrous turn of events could mean. She thought of the people she had known who had been cast out of the church for unsound doctrine, worldliness, or misconduct; she remembered how helpless they had seemed, and how lost. But sometimes one can be hit too hard to be helpless or lost; sheer outrage can bring strength. She turned her thoughts from what the church might or might not do and, numb with misery, tried to understand Elder Bitterman. Throughout the rest of her life she was to speak of him as a moral monster. Long, long afterward she was to comment bitterly that even Eve had not been accuse of witchcraft.
For Nina, shivering with shock on a cold day, the immediate problem was to remain intact in the face of betrayal, to decide in a nightmare situation what logical, everyday steps she should take to prepare for a trial that no one had had the ordinary humanity to discuss with her in advance.
"Its a wicked lie! What is true in this letter has been twisted into a wicked lie. You will have to hear about it from me from first to last. But," she added, as two nurses came down the frozen walk, "not here. Theres a bench past that big rock near the lake. Go there and wait for me."
Without waiting to see if he would comply with her abrupt instructions, she turned away, walked back to the sanitarium, and up to her room. When she returned with the briefcase that had the clipped-out newspaper stories she had written, Charles was pacing a snowy walk at lakeside.
It is easy to feel sorry for Charles. He had married a whiz-kid protégéé of the church. He had every reason at the time to expect that her brilliance and energy would carry her to the top of the church structure and he with her. It would be hard to judge which one of the two was the more apprehensive and appalled by the strange turn events had taken. They sat down on a bench, the open briefcase between them. Nina handed him, one after another, the episodes of The Girl with a Hundred Personalities. He read slowly, gasping now and then with surprise or harumphing with disapproval. When he had read the entire series, she segregated the episodes she had given to Elder Bitterman.
"Read these again," she said. "If Elder Bitterman claims that I wrote any of these for him, you will recognize them as part of an impersonal series."
"I cant understand how you could write such wickedness," the Reverend Charles Baierle said bitterly.
"I had to have some money, I just had to have some. I cant apologize for this. I had to buy hairpins, and toothpaste, and equipment to deal with menstruation, and dresses and shoes to wear in public. I have many duties and these stories were the easiest way to make money in the time I had left over. My stories arent wickedness; theyre only imaginative. Forget about them. Our problem is the charge by Elder Bitterman that I have bewitched him. This is a lie. I will never forgive him for this."
As far as I know, even to the day of her death, she never did.
"Im hungry, and you look ill," Brother Charles said. "Ill go up and bring us down some lunch. Well talk this over." His voice was kind.
The hint of kindness was almost too much for logic and strength. Fortunately, he had already left, so she could gather herself together by herself. She had time to pray. All she could pray for was that God would help her husband to believe what was true so that she would not be entirely alone in her defense.
Seldom has a prayer been so swiftly answered. When Brother Baierle returned to the cold bench with cold sandwiches and cold milk, he said, "I believe you. Ill stand by you in this thing as much as I can without endangering my position in the church. Im sure that the others will see this in the right light. Well go to Boston today. Ill attend the meeting tonight, which will only be an organizational session for your trial. That will start tomorrow. Well stay in Boston until this is over."
. . . 9
The Reverend Charles and Dr. Nina arrived early at the meeting room for the trial. Mother later would tell her children that she insisted she and Charles be the first to arrive because she preferred to watch the elders assemble rather than make a late entrance into a hostile group of old men. We agreed with her that this was a canny maneuver. According to Mothers notes, Elder Bidwell was the next to arrive, followed almost immediately by the elders from Washington, Striker and Danforth. They spoke to Nina and asked Charles to join them at the far end of the room. There they huddled in a circle, talking earnestly together in low tones.
Next came Elders Eldress, Atlee, and Buchanan, then Brother Leeland, followed by Elders Rustman, Jones, Kerby, and Banks. Last, Elder Bitterman came with his wife and with white-haired Elder Carson. The chairs had already been arranged in the center of the room in a semi-circle. Nina and Charles were seated on the left end and Herman and his wife on the right end. The two couples faced each other directly.
Elder Danforth, from Washington, led in a long solemn prayer. Elder Bidwell stated the case against Nina. Elder Striker, obviously the Important Person from Washington, called upon Elder Bitterman to testify. Herman began. Whenever he hesitated in outlining the methods used by Nina to bewitch him, his wife would interrupt: "Now tell how she tempted you. Tell how you had to fight her off!" Ninas notes of the trial contain a lot of talking by Sister Bitterman. No wonder Herman spent two-thirds of his time at the sanitarium. His testimony took up the long morning past the usual noon dinner hour. The trial was adjourned until the following day.
On the second day of the trial the newspaper stories were presented. Herman Bitterman presented them. He had read only two episodes when he was interrupted by Elder Striker.
"May I ask Elder Bitterman what possible relationship these stories have to the subject under discussion? Is the doctor on trial for writing stories for a newspaper, or for misconduct with you?"
A startled ripple went around the semicircle. Brother Leeland, who honestly believed imaginative writing was inspired by the Devil himself, turned red with holy wrath when what he accounted to be a corruptive activity was so lightly put aside.
Sister Bitterman said, "Herman is only trying to show what an evil mind this woman has."
Elder Danforth backed up his colleague from Washington. "I think Elder Striker has a point. I move that we dispense with further reading of these articles. Most of us have read the whole series. Both Elder Striker and I receive the Sunday newspaper in Washington from New York. We have found both these stories to be amusing and, whats more important, clinically interesting. We were both students of Dr. William James at Harvard, and I, for one, have wondered who the author was."
"I might add," Elder Striker said, "that we stopped in New York on the way here and talked to the editor of the newspaper."
"What did he say?" asked Elder Bidwell.
"He refused to divulge the name of the author. We are not even sure that Dr. Baierle is the writer of these stories. They seem much too clinically accurate for so young a woman to write. Do you have any positive proof, Elder Bitterman, that she wrote these articles?"
"Yes, I have. When you hear the letters she wrote to me you will see that theyre the same kind of thing." Elder Bitterman was shaken. The trial has taken an unexpected turn. He had not expected the men from Washington to have any information at all. Many people, before and since, have underrated intelligent, knowledgeable people from Washington.
"One question, Elder Bitterman, before you begin," said Elder Striker. "Were these letters mailed to you?"
"No. She gave them to me on different occasions when I was in her office."
"Very well. Proceed." Elder Striker turned his head and smiled at Dr, Nina, a warm, friendly smile. She had sat quietly throughout the trial, her face pale even to the lips with strain and suppressed indignation. With that smile, hope ruffled in her heart the way a dove, warm and plump and rosy, settles in her nest.
Elder Bitterman droned on, reading what he now recognized was known to be published, impersonal material. He wiped his forehead often with a fine linen handkerchief.
"Now, Dr. Baierle, we will hear your side. What have you to say?" Elder Bidwells voice was pontifical.
Dr. Nina stood. Soberly she looked at Elder Bidwell and then at each of the elders in turn. The silence was prolonged into embarrassment for everyone but Nina. She was momentarily unaware of what she was doing as a physical body, because into her mind, full-blown, had come her fathers voice as he backed Elder Bates out of the door, past the chip pile, and through the garden gate, all those years ago. She had not known, then, what the words he used meant. She was never to remember them again. But at that moment she heard his voice complete. Looking around at the solemn faces of the elders, she could only think of how profoundly shocked they would be if she said what her father had said. Red came back into her lips, her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkled, and she laughed.
Mother had an amazing laugh. There was no titter and no shrillness. The only analogy that comes close to describing her laugh is the sound of a finely made, artfully arranged Japanese wind chime blown suddenly by a strong gust of wind that makes the glass prisms peal and ring and go beyond a tinkle into a beautiful, irresistible sound of joy.
The elders were shocked. Before they could shake themselves out of their surprise, Nina sobered.
"No, I have nothing to say to you, now or ever. I thought that you, Elder Bidwell, and you, Brother Leeland, and you, Elder Bitterman, were holy men of God. I now think you are disgusting!" She swept to the door, retrieving her coat and gloves as she went, and left the scene.
. . . 10
Back in her room at Melrose, Dr. Nina furiously packed her belongings. She told her children later that she felt, that night, like the ice maiden of the fairy tales, frozen with rage. She acted without caution, without fears, without the nagging regret for the past that ultimately dissipates red-hot anger. Nothing could stop her advent into a new life not her sanitarium patients, her clinic, her ties with the past years of her life. She felt as inexorable as a glacier. She realized, on the train from Boston, that she had never joined the church. Baptism was a basic requirement for membership in the sect, and she had refused baptism when she was nine years old. She had no honest obligation to go farther along the road that led away from the life she needed.
The next morning Charles went to the staff dining room for breakfast. When Nina didnt appear, he went to her room and knocked at the door. She was dressed. She was finishing her packing.
"What goes on here?" Charles asked, surveying the suitcases and packing boxes.
"Im leaving here with you today."
"Nina, you cant do that! I would have told you last night, but when I looked in after I returned Boston, you were sleeping. Your trouble is over. The committee has dismissed all charges. Of course," he added, "no one is pleased about your writing. That will have to stop." Nina continued with her packing, saying nothing. "Arent you glad? Dont you want to hear about it?"
"Yes, Im glad that at last I am free of their domination. Ill never work another day for any of them, now or ever."
"But wait until you hear what happened after you left!"
The details of the conclusion of Dr. Ninas trial are third-hand, from Charles to Mother to me. He reported that the entire committee had sat in amazed silence after Dr. Nina closed the door behind her. Elder Striker was the first to speak.
"In this whole trial, there has been nothing solid but the confessed infatuation of Elder Bitterman, a man almost old enough to be Dr. Ninas father. There is not a word in these so-called letters that was not already in the newspapers. On my part, it seems to me to be inconceivable that any of these were written to him at all. What do you say, Brother Baierle? Youre more involved in this than any of the rest of us."
The Reverend Charles proceeded to give them Ninas account to him. He was encouraged to support his wife by the nods and echoes of agreement of those church dignitaries more important than he.
Elder Bidwell repented of his role. "I feel as though scales had dropped from my eyes. The worst I can see is that Dr. Nina let her imagination run wild. Im sorry I had such a big part in this miserable business. I move and cast my vote for not guilty."
The motion was seconded and the vote was unanimous.
"Brother Baierle, please convey this decision to your wife. Elder Bittermans case will be take up later by the Conference Committee." Elder Bidwell, Charles reported, carefully refrained from looking at the Bittermans, who had risen after the vote and were on their way to the door.
"When Elder Bidwell and I had put the elders from Washington on the train," Charles said, "we had time to talk on the local coming back to Melrose. Elder Bitterman will never be in charge here again. Hes to be sent to Asia as a missionary."
"Im sorry for his wife. She wont like that at all." Nina paused to be sad as she reviewed the wreckage of their association. "But I cant care about any of them. Dont you want me to come with you?" A young, wistful, please-say-yes-if-you-can note came into her voice.
"No." Brother Baierle was unmoved. "Youd better remain here for another year. I need the money; Im not ready to have you come. The private sanitarium building Im getting ready for you in Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania wont be ready until next spring. Twelve hundred dollars more will help."
So thats what he was doing with her salary. It was a curious aberration in both of Mothers husbands both were to build her a hospital she didnt want. She wanted to be a doctor, not an administrator. She had a total aversion to record keeping. She would write prescriptions, fill out birth certificates and other necessary medical forms, and that was as far as she would go. Later, when she had money, she wouldnt even fill out check stubs. When her canceled checks came from the bank, she gave the checks and her checkbook to her accountant. Record keeping was his business, not hers. In the later years of her life she was to drive the Internal Revenue Service mad with frustration. The IRS sent so many young men up from Washington to try to mend her ways that they all became, to Dr. Nina, her friends. She always invited them to stay to dinner. Her conscience was clear, her records were nonexistent, and her cooking was superb. She enjoyed the IRS and never could understand why, after a particularly nice young man had gone through her desk, her cashbox, her medical records, and her accountant, Herb Crane, she would get long, reproving letters from the Internal Revenue Service in Washington. Sometimes she didnt even open the letters.
But whether she did or did not want to run a hospital was not the immediate problem.
"Im sorry to disappoint you, Charles, but Im leaving here today, with or without you. I am resolved. Im a qualified doctor licensed to practice not just here but also in Pennsylvania. On the train we can talk over plans for me to make money."
"Dont be hasty, Nina." It was the Reverend Charles whose voice was pleading now. "Ill send Elder Bidwell to talk to you."
"Dont you dare! Dont you send any of them. Ill talk to no one. Go collect what they owe me and order a cab for the train."
Brother Baierle went. We have a woman here, with a vengeance. No brave child, no conforming adolescent, no beginning adult. A real person.
When they were on the train she told him bluntly of her plan to have a family. Brother Baierle rebelled.
"See here, Nina! You cant be in earnest. What would we do with a family? How could you work, burdened with a baby? Please dont spoil everything now. Ive spent a lot of time and money fixing up a place for you to work. It would all be ruined if you had a baby. I cant understand whats come over you. The Lord is coming soon. His people, especially the leaders, should be above the things of the flesh. We should not have children in these last days."
"Thats really funny. There isnt time for us to have a home and a family because the Lord is coming soon. But we have plenty of time to build and run a sanitarium! I think you dont have the slightest idea how much time and work it will take to start making money with a private hospital. Event he church-supported hospitals operate at a deficit. Im willing to try, but in return Im going to have a family. If not yours, then someone elses."
Brother Baierle shook his head in bafflement. "How youve changed in the last few years! You used to put the Lords work first; now you sound sacrilegious. What is the matter with you?"
For the next half hour he stared out the train window. When he turned back he was, to Ninas surprise, quiet and helpful. They decided she should open an office for private practice in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to help finish the sanitarium. Brother Charles offered to visit the church in Scranton to find her a room with one of the church members. She refused. She would find an office with room enough for sleeping quarters. She would accept the members of the church as patients, but that would be the limit of her association with them.
"Youll feel differently after a while. Dont let this experience make you bitter or separate you from God," he cautioned solemnly.
"I have no intention of being separated from God. I intend to be what God meant me to be: a doctor, a wife, and a mother. Ill keep my part of our bargain; as soon as the sanitarium is finished, Ill expect you to keep yours."
She meant it; a contract is a contract. Each performs his part of the deal. But how did she make sure that he would perform his? I feel it is somewhat unseemly for a daughter to be curious about her mothers sex life. But how can one help wondering? Can a man be ordered into ones bed? Nature has a simple way of countermanding such an order. How did she manage? Imagine a virgin ordering into her bed a man whose duty it is to make love to her, even though he finds her unattractive, and to do so for the express purpose of impregnating her, although he dislikes children and wants none of his own. Imagine. Id rather walk, singing hymns, by a panther.
Continue to Part 5: "And the darkness shall turn to dawning, and the dawning to noonday bright."