Susan La Flesche was born in June of 1865 on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska where she lived until 1884 when she left to attend the Hampton Institute of Virginia. In 1886 La Flesche received a scholarship from the US Office of Indian Affairs, becoming the first person to receive federal aid for professional education. She used this scholarship to attend the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania from 1886 to 1889 and graduated at the top of her class.
She returned to the reservation to work at the government boarding school where she struggled against lack of funds and support. In 1894 La Flesche moved with her husband Henry Picotte to Bancroft Nebraska where she set up a private practice.
After Henry’s death in 1905, La Flesche became an activist as well as physician. She worked to eliminate alcoholism from reservations, pushed for native people’s legal status and citizenship, and fought against land fraud against the Omaha people. It is this period that the excerpt of diary we have details.
Between September of 1910 and January 1911 La Flesche kept a diary that still exists today. She also wrote many letters and probably wrote more than just this one diary; however, this is what has been found so far. The diary is 8.25″ long and 5.25″ wide and it has a light brown leather cover. I will be transcribing the diary month by month and adding the images and the transcriptions to this site.
In 1913, La Flesche opened a hospital on the Omaha reservation in the town of Walthill, Nebraska. She accomplished all these things despite chronic pain and respiratory issues and she passed away from what was most likely bone cancer in September of 1915. Her legacy of trailblazing and activism continues to this day.