To Brave the World: Romania Pratt Penrose
By Christine Croft Waters
In the twenty-five years since Brigham Young had led the Latter-day Saints into the Great Basin, only six professionally-trained doctors had practiced in the Salt Lake Valley, and of those none were Mormons. Of course, others called themselves doctors, but they were Thompsonian or botanical doctors, who were mostly self taught. Because of this lack of professional training and the Mormon belief in the power of healing the title of doctor did not inspire confidence. In fact, in 1858 Joseph Young, brother of Brigham, summed up the general feeling of the Saints when he said he would rather send for the elders, “for I do not believe in the doctors; I would rather call upon the Lord.” However, in 1869 with the advent of the railroad, Brigham Young knew isolationism was at an end and perceived the great need for the Saints to become proficient in all fields. He saw the medical needs of the Saints were being neglected, especially among the sisters, and because he did not trust Gentile doctors and had the belief that woman should be cared for by other women, in 1873 he urged all the sisters who could to make arrangements to study medicine in eastern universities. Romania Bunnell Pratt was the first of many to respond.
Romania was born to Luther B. and Esther Mendenhall Bunnell in Washington, Indiana on August 8, 1839. In her memoirs she recalled when she was seven gathering with the Saints to Nauvoo, Illinois and “investigating with childish wonder and eagerness the mysteries of the Nauvoo Temple from the white marble font on the backs of white marble oxen in the basement to the wondrous bell in the belfry.” But the Bunnells were unable to remain in Nauvoo, for persecutions forced the Saints from their city in the winter of 1846, and they journeyed with the majority of others to Winter Quarters carrying few of their former belongings. Further hardships came to the Saints at Winter Quarters when a call came from the United States government to send a battalion of men to fight in the Mexican War. Romania remembered
being present when the martial band was marching round, and the call was made for the “Mormon” Battalion, for Mexico. Although too young to appreciate the severe ordeal our devoted and persecuted people were subject to, I can never forget the feeling of grief which oppressed my little heart, as one after one the brave-hearted men fell into ranks.
While the remainder of the Saints prepared for the exodus into the Great Basin, Romania’s father prepared to return to the home of his father in Ohio. Esther’s health was delicate, she having recently given birth to a second daughter, and Luther thought it wise to postpone the journey West until more adequate preparations had been made. So the family journeyed eastward and purchased a small farm.
In 1849 news of gold in California reached the Bunnell farm, and Romania’s father enthusiastically banded together with a number of others journeying to California. He hoped to acquire enough gold to take his family to Zion. He was successful in the mines, but just before his return he contracted typhoid fever and died. Only a portion of his gold was recovered because death came before he could tell his nephew where he had hidden it.
The death of Romania’s father must not have placed undue financial hardship on the family, for Romania continued to attend school until her sixteenth year. She recalled that she would have
So in 1855 the Bunnells, consisting of Esther Bunnell, Romania and Josephine, and their two brothers, Luther and Isaac, sold the Ohio farm and joined Captain John Hindley’s train of fifty in Omaha. Romania recounted that
The journey across the plains with ox teams was a summer full of pleasure to me; the early morning walks gathering wild flowers, climbing the rugged and oftimes forbidding hills–the pleasant evening gatherings of the young folks by the bright camp fire while sweet songs floated forth on the evening air to gladden the wild and savage ear of the red men or wild beasts as well as our own young.
On September 3 the wagon train arrived in the sight of the Salt Lake Valley. Romania remembered climbing Little Mountain
with fleet footsteps and anxious heart to get the first peep at the great city of the saints. With lightening glances I rapidly swept the whole valley north and south but no city could I find; my disappointment was extreme. I looked for bristling spires and flashing metallic cupolas which I had been accustomed to see when first coming into sight of other cities. After a long but fruitless search for the city some one came to my relief and called my attention to a small collection of black spots indicating houses.
Entering Salt Lake City the travelers found they had arrived in the midst of a grasshopper famine. Food was scarce and Romania recalled “for the first time in life did I face its stern realities.” Although the Bunnells were not actually poor, a guardian had been appointed to take care of the inheritance left by Romania’s father, and he would not allow the family to have any money “to come among the Mormons,” so when they arrived they were penniless.
To help earn a living Romania taught in Brigham Young’s school, and her mother took in laundry. In 1857 when word came to Sister Esther Bunnell that she could receive money from her husband’s estate, she journeyed to Ohio, settled the estate, purchased a piano for Romania, and upon her return bought a small home for the family. Romania had a great love for music and later recalled that practicing the piano gave her a delicate touch, which helped her while operating on “the tenderest organ, the eye.”
In the spring of 1858 the Saints were threatened by the march westward of U.S. General Albert Johnston, sent to Utah to escort a new governor into the territory and “keep an eye on the Mormons. The Saints looked upon the coming of this army as an act of war. As did others their properties, Romania prepared her prized piano to be burned in the “event of our enemies taking possession.” Romania recalled, however, that “God did not permit the burning of our homes for our enemy was harassed and their efforts anticipated until they made a treaty to pass quietly through the city and form a camp called Camp Floyd.”
Romania blossomed in the wilderness and at the age of twenty she was claimed in marriage by Parley P. Pratt, Jr., the eldest son of Apostle Parley P. Pratt. Parley, Jr. was said to be a “son of promise.” His mother, Thankful Halsey, had been childless for the nine years of her marriage. When the elder Parley was called on a mission to Canada, Thankful’s illness and his heavy indebtedness filled his mind with doubts. As he struggled with this decision, a visit was paid him by Apostle Heber C. Kimball, who gave Thankful a blessing, promising that if Parley would go on his mission the way would be opened for him to pay his debts and do a great work in Canada, which work would later spread to England. He also promised Thankful that within a year she would bear a son and call his name Parley. The fulfillment of the promised birth came in Kirtland on March 25, 1837 when Thankful gave birth dying soon afterward.
Parley, Jr. fulfilled two missions for the Church. In April of 1861, two years after his marriage to Romania, he was called to labor in the Eastern States Mission. Afterward he journeyed to England and was gone a total of four different years, in which he left Romania behind to support herself and two-year-old Parley Jr. as best she could while expecting another child in December. The baby, named for Romania’s father, lived for only three days and Romania sadly buried him in the Salt Lake cemetery.
Upon Parley’s return, five additional children were added to the Pratt family. Louis was born in 1865; Corinne, the only daughter, was born in 1867 and died when she was almost two years old. Her death caused a lingering sorrow in Romania’s life. In 1869 Mark was born, followed in 1871 by Irwin, and in 1873 by Roy.
The same year Roy was born Brigham Young called for women to become trained doctors. Though burdened with debts and five boys, Romania yearned for the opportunity to go. She had once sat helplessly by and watched a friend die:
I saw her lying on her bed, her life slowly ebbing away, and no one near knew how to ease her pain or prevent her death; it was a natural enough case, and a little knowledge might have saved her. Oh, how I longed to know something to do, and at that moment I solemnly vowed to myself never to be found in such a position again, and it was my aim ever afterward to arrange my life work that I might study the science which would relieve suffering, appease pain, prevent death.
So determined was Romania to follow the Prophet and yield to her own desires that arrangements were made to sell her piano and their home to finance Romania’s medical school to New York. In December 1873 Romania left her boys in the care of her mother and took the train to New York City. When she arrived in New York Romania assisted Parley in proofreading his father’s autobiography. At the end of six weeks, all the work was completed, and late in the winter Romania was able to enter the Women’s Medical College in New York.
During the first term of medical school Romania mostly observed. However, some professors were unaware of their students. Romania’s memoirs recall:
I shall not soon forget my extreme confusion on being asked a question during a quiz by a professor who for the moment forgot I was a new student–nor the mischievous smiles of the students, but my revenge was more than complete at the beginning of the next term in witnessing their astonishment because of my advancement. During the summer vacation while they were recreating, sea bathing and visiting with friends, I daily plodded studiously up the rugged hill of knowledge; reciting as a private student every day to the professor of physiology. I also took lessons in opthalmology of Dr. P. A. Callan and finally by special permission I joined a class taught by Prof. H. D. Noyes in Bellevue College. Dr. Little said I was the first woman ever admitted to Bellevue.
Romania’s quick intelligence and intense interest soon caused her to excel; her answers to questions were often received with applause, and her dissection work was so well done that many of the other students would persuade her to dissect and lecture. She was told that the professor of the Homeopathic College, whose dissecting rooms were in the same building, would go to her table every day after she had left, call his class to him, and show them the manner and style of her dissection, using it as a model for his students to pattern after. He often said it was the neatest work he had seen done. For most of the medical students dissection was a formidable challenge. One medical student recalled that “the sight of eight stark, staring bodies, every age and color, stretched upon as many tables, was not reassuring to say the least.” The cost of dissecting a cadaver was $40, which was born by a “club” of four girls, two juniors and two freshmen, who worked as a team on its dissection.
Romania bore the intellectual pressure of medical school with more ease than the financial pressure. She lived in a small room for which she paid one dollar per week. All her money was saved to pay for the cost of instruction, which amounted to one dollar per hour.
With freshman year behind her, Romania returned to Salt Lake City in the summer of 1875 and “had the joy of the society of my children and the Saints.” However, her finances were depleted and in desperation she paid a visit to Brigham Young. President Young charged Eliza R. Snow to attend to Romania’s financial needs. “She must continue her studies in the east,” declared President Young.
We need her here, and her talents will be of great use to this people. Take this upon yourself, Sister Eliza, to see to it that the Relief Societies furnish Sister Pratt with the necessary money to complete her studies. Let them get up parties and thus provide the means.
Romania thus spent the summer secure that she would have the finances to return to school in the fall. While at home Romania was appointed president of the Young Ladies Retrenchment Association of the Twelfth Ward. The Association was formed, said Romania, “to draw the attention of the young girls to the principles of the gospel and to suppress the growing evil of vanity and extravagance of dress which was rapidly on the increase, as the fashions of Babylon were more and more brought into our midst.” These societies were organized throughout Zion.
In the fall Romania turned from pleasant summer days in Utah to her remaining years of schooling, this time in Philadelphia. Back at school, Romania again found the pressure mounting to learn all possible in a short period of time. She found learning the material required working ones memory beyond the capacity thought possible. Another medical student wrote that some nights would find a student
skull in hand, striving manfully to trace out numerous almost invisible lines and marks, each with a Latin name as long again as itself…When tired nature will no longer be denied, he retires to his couch but not always to rest. Long lists of those interminable Latin names, interspersed with bones of every description, or the latest experiment tried in the chemical laboratory, flit before him in kaleidoscopic procession and he awakes in the morning feeling as though he had continued his labor during the whole twenty-four hours.
Romania later recalled that all days “seemed so much alike that it was as one long day.” Her “long day” was broken up in the spring when Romania had the opportunity to work in the New England Hospital for women and children in Boston. She recalled her
earnestness and diligence won the esteem of all the physicians who were all women, both resident and attending, insomuch that they held a counsel as to the propriety of sending me to Europe after my graduation. I believe the fact of my being a Mormon decided the case against me.
Having gained valuable practical experience during the summer, when Romania returned to Philadelphia in the fall, she not only excelled in her regular studies, but in addition wrote a fine thesis. Romania recalled her graduation day on March 15, 1877 as
One of the most eventful days in my life…Dressed in black and with throbbing hearts we repaired to Association Hall–the house was crowded full of interesting friends and spectators, but alas! Few were mine. A stranger in a strange land, beside being almost a “hiss and a by word” on account of my religion. Nevertheless after we had received our diplomas and a present of the code of Medical Ethics, I received two beautiful bouquets and a book from friends.
Romania, in the early days of medical school, had decided to specialize in the eye and ear, so after graduation she remained in Philadelphia to attend two courses on the eye and one course on the ear. After finishing the courses, Romania journeyed to the Elmira Water Cure at the request of John W. Young, son of Brigham, to observe the methods used. Patients breakfasted, retired to the parlor for a short reading in the Bible and prayer, and then went to various medical offices where they were given advice of their treatments. Baths commenced at ten o’clock and continued until twelve. Romania wrote in a letter to the Woman’s Exponent from Elmira:
The different kinds [of baths] are, hot air, (miniature Turkish) full, three fourths, sitz, foot, head and foot, pours, etc.; all finished up with such vigorous slapping and massage by robust Scotch girls that the sleepiest or half dead molecules of blood are sent madly coursing on their way renewing, enlivening and invigorating with new life every process of the system.
Romania spent a month at Elmira and then set out for Bloomington, Indiana, where her sister Josephine was expecting a child. Romania had promised to deliver the baby and care for Josephine in return for train fare to Salt Lake. However, her stay necessarily lengthened into two months. When she was finally able to leave Bloomington she was very anxious and recalled that the “journey [home] was long and wearisome though of only a few days.” When she finally arrived home in September 18, 1877 she recalled her home was
still, quiet and empty, but hearing voices in the orchard I wandered back and found my dear faithful mother and two youngest children gathering fruit. My heart was pierced with sorrow when my little ones opened wide their eyes in wonder and with no token of recognition of their mother. I wept bitterly that I had been forgotten by my babes. Very soon all my dear children were gathered around me and we soon renewed old acquaintances and affections.
Romania’s son, Parley was now seventeen and her youngest son, Roy, was four, so Romania sought to balance the mothering of her sons with the establishment of a medical practice. It was necessary for Romania to earn a living for her family since Parley was in poor health and had taken an additional wife, Brighamine Nielson, in early 1877.
Romania soon became a busy practitioner, and in the spring following her return, announcements of classes she would teach in anatomy, physiology, and obstetrics began dotting the pages of the Woman’s Exponent:
Mrs. Romania B. Pratt, M.D., continues her interesting and instructive free lectures to the Ladies Medical Class, every Friday afternoon, as usual, at this office [the Exponent office]. . . . All ladies desirous of obtaining knowledge of the laws of life and how to preserve their health, and rear children, how to determine the cases of illness, should improve these opportunities and not fail in punctuality.
Also her articles on hygiene became a regular feature in the Exponent.
Another absorbing interest in Romania’s life became women’s rights. She wrote in the Exponent in 1879 that it was a woman’s “duty and privilege to do whatever she can that will promote the advancement and elevation of her own sex.” She spoke to a large audience in Ogden City Hall and told them that “knowledge feeds and fattens on itself . . . it is good to become self sustaining and have a complete knowledge of some branch of work . . . . Women must work her way up to the position she desires to fill in life [keeping in mind that] her mission as a mother is a sacred one.” Romania also wrote later in the Young Woman’s Journal: “Why not let capacity and ability be the test of eligibility and not sex?” She continued:
In a nutshell our duties as suffragists are to inform ourselves and instruct each other in the science of government, to interest all our friends in the movement, and convert our fathers, brothers and husbands to the fact that we can understand and wield an intelligent power in politics, and still preside wisely and gracefully at home.
In 1880 Romania asked Exponent readers:
Is law a protection or a guide, or is it a vicious weathercock set up on the cross roads, pointing the road just as the wind may blow? . . . It is high time women set a high price on all her works and abilities, and see which bill foots up the highest.
Romania did set a “high price on all her works and abilities.” She was a realist who recognized things as they actually were. When she concluded that all would be better if she and Parley were divorced, she did not hesitate to act. Parley had never been able to support the family because of his delicate health and frequent absence, and Brighamine now had children which needed any support Parley could give. Besides, the years of separation in early marriage while Parley was on his mission and later as Romania attended medical school, had likely alienated the Pratts and added to Romania’s decision for a final separation. So Romania, whose personality demanded that she do what was needful, secured a divorce in 1881.
In January of 1882 Romania was given the opportunity to accompany Zina D. H. Young, a prominent Relief Society member, and Ellen B. Ferguson, another trained Mormon doctor, back to New York to attend the Woman’s Suffrage Convention. Romania also went back to attend lectures at the Eye and Ear Infirmary. In a letter to the Exponent, Romania reported on the convention and Susan B. Anthony:
Everybody who is not as mean and green with prejudice and jealousy, as a tomato worm, cannot help admiring and liking Miss Anthony. If she is terse and decided, and hits the nail a peeling clip square on the top of the head, is not that the way to do, when we are in dead earnest to accomplish anything.
However, Romania also revealed that her
attendance at the convention was quite a digression on my part from my daily attendance at the Eye and Ear Infirmary. Rain, snow, storm or sleet are mere feathers before my all-devouring interest in their field of study. . . I know that I have gained a more comprehensive grasp of the vast subject, and dipped deeper into the minutiae of it, during these three months, than I possibly could have done in years alone. I only regret that I cannot stay longer; but the home notes sound loud in my heart, and I must return at latest by the middle of May.
I will not indulge in any platitudes of how I long to be at home . . . for as true as twice one is two, any true Latter-day Saint woman, when she turns back upon Zion, has to possess more will force than the wife of Lot had to keep her from looking back all the time.
Six months in New York had prepared Romania to open a new office on Main Street, and equip it with the newest instruments available for surgical operations on the eye and ear. Because of her pioneering work on the eye and her modern equipment, it is thought that she performed the first cataract operation in Utah.
Romania’s dream for the establishment of a Mormon hospital became a reality in 1882, when the Catholic sisters decided to vacate St. Mary’s Hospital and the First Presidency granted the Relief Society sisters permission to move into the vacated building. Accepting donations to obtain operating funds, the hospital soon became equipped with the necessary supplies to begin operation. The Desert Hospital Association was organized, allowing every woman in good church standing to belong by paying $1 annually. Eliza R. Snow was appointed president of the association with Zina D.H. Young as vice president, Emmeline B. Wells as secretary, and Romania Pratt as visiting physician. She later became the resident physician. The dedication services for the Deseret Hospital were held on July 16, 1882.
The facility soon became a leading hospital in the territory with a capacity of between forty and fifty patients. In the beginning each patient was charged $3 per week for board, room, and nursing. As time went on, however, the fees were raised to $6 per week. In 1893 a pamphlet distributed at the World’s Fair extolled the accomplishments of the Deseret Hospital:
Over four hundred operations, including some of the major operations, have been performed and have been attended with unusual success. The school of obstetrics and training of nurses was opened in June, 1887, and has been in successful operation since that time. About thirty have received certificates and have gone to distant parts of the country to fulfill important positions.
Romania, along with other women such as Eliza R. Snow, Emmeline B. Wells, and Susa Young Gates, was outspoken on issues that needed emphasis. In 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Bill making plural marriage illegal and punishable by $500 or five years imprisonment. Romania wrote a defense of polygamy in the Exponent in 1886 stating that every women should have the “undeniable right to be an honorable wife and mother–of fulfilling the end of her creation, and do not the circumstances of life and statistics prove this to be impossible under the monogramic system.” Romania ended her article with an appeal to President Cleveland and the “honest-hearted” of the nation to “raise a voice against oppression, to use their influence . . . and demand a stay in the proceedings against this people.”
Romania was in a good position to defend plural marriage for on March 11, 1886 she had become the third wife of Charles W. Penrose. Penrose had been born in England in 1832 and had become converted to Mormonism at the age of eighteen. He fulfilled a seven-year mission after his conversion, and upon his return began writing for the Millennial Star. He continued his work on the Star until 1861 when he emigrated to Utah, teaching school in the winters and farming in the summer. Charles eventually returned to England to fulfill three additional missions. In 1886 when he married Romania he had two previous wives and was working as the editor of the Deseret News. He went on to become assistant church historian, a member of the Council of Twelve Apostles, and a second counselor in the First Presidency of the Church to both Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant.
During the busy years after their marriage when Romania had a heavy medical practice in addition to writing and teaching and Charles was required to spend many hours on church business, they still managed time together. Though their personalities differed, they complemented each other. President Penrose was a story teller and mimic. In his presence people were quickly made to feel at ease and soon joined in the laughter of a joke. Romania’s temperament was much more sober, and she would often merely smile as others joined President Penrose in a hardy laugh. Their difference in temperament, however, did not stop them from enjoying each other’s company. They loved to attend the theater and travel together. They always treated each other with great respect and with much fondness. After twelve years of marriage to Romania, Charles wrote the following poem:
No words of mine can ever tell
The feelings of a loving heart
Which, rising like a fountain, swell
And with the richest joys impart.
As years march on with rapid stride
And weakness comes to limb and brain
Sweet love has Time’s attack defied
And stamped his fiercest efforts vain.
Dear “M” your charms of mind and soul
Will bloom afresh, though wrinkles come
Their fragrance still hold sweet control
And shed perfume around our home.
Romania was well suited to be the wife of an apostle. Besides being in excellent health, she was well respected for her work in medicine and in Relief Society, where she served as general secretary. Susa Young Gates, a long-time friend, described her in 1891 as a wonderful woman. Not because she has done anything impossible to be done by other women, but because in becoming a doctor able to sever a limb, or take out an eye, now delivering a woman, then attending with gentlest care the sick bed of some poor old man at the hospital, yet with it all she has a home on another street where she keeps a corner warm and cozy for mother and her unmarried boys; also is she a woman with religious duties, devolving upon her shoulders, and with it all she is the same sweet, quiet-voiced, gentle lady that my childish memory so vividly produces.
If you should ever have the honor of being her guest, you will discover that with all her many gifts she has one rare and beautiful one, that of a perfect hostess; her guest is apparently her only care–she who is weighed down with a thousand burdens. She is honored and loved by all who have the pleasure of her acquaintance and their name is legion.
Susa and Romania knew each other well. When Susa and Jacob Gates had served a mission in the Sandwich Islands, Susa had had a great desire to encourage the development of writing among the sisters. Jacob advised her to write home and get judgment from someone whom she trusted. Susa wrote to Romania, who answered her immediately with enthusiasm and encouragement, and told her “in eloquent, glowing language, the wealth of beautiful thoughts and words that were constantly arising and shining in the different societies which only lacked an organ for their preservation and crystallization. Why should not the young Ladies have a magazine, she said, as well as the Young Men.” Susa then wrote to President Joseph F. Smith, and the result was her founding of the Young Woman’s Journal. Romania was subsequently chosen by Elmina Taylor to be on the board of the Journal at its inception in 1889 and from its first publication in October, Romania’s articles on hygiene appeared regularly. In one article Romania wrote that “no man or woman can work efficiently with broken or incompetent tools, neither can the talents or intelligence of the spirit be materialized to its greatest degree by a physical organization diseased.” Other issues contained advice on pure air, pure water as “the world’s greatest cleanser,” and drink. Her articles were a blend of religious sermonism, common sense, and medical know-how.
On August 8, 1889 Romania was given a surprise party to celebrate her jubilee year. Held in a room of the Deseret Hospital garnished with flowers and vines, Romania was congratulated upon her arrival “on having reached the half century so active, bouyant, fresh, and blooming a matron.” There were speeches given and a large photograph album presented. Dr. Ellis Shipp, who had followed Romania to the East to obtain her medical degree, recited to Romania:
In you we recognize many gifts and graces that glorify the character of women. We admire your talents, we honor your undaunted courage and perseverance in toiling alone up the rugged hill of science, opening the path to a higher and broader field of usefulness for your sex. . . . It was said of Napoleon that he could win battles but Josephine had achieved the greater success for she could win hearts; the presence of so many appreciative friends assembled here tonight to honor your Jubilee proves that you have learned the art known to the charming. . . .
Besides Romania’s activities in women’s rights, Relief Society, and medicine, she still found time to take French and Spanish. Her language teacher said of her that she was a “digger,” because she was one of the few who finished the class. She later taught a Spanish class for her grandchildren. Romania also found time to join two literary clubs founded by her friend Emmeline B. Wells: the Press Club and the Reapers’ Club. Both sought to train writers for publication and newspaper work. Founded on October 31, 1891, in the parlor of the Woman’s Exponent office, the Woman’s Press Club chose Emmeline B. Wells president, Susa Young Gates and Lula Green Richards vice presidents, and Romania Pratt Penrose auditor. Meetings were held regularly on the last day of the month where members read and listened to compositions from their midst, enjoying “a feast of reason and a flow of soul.” The membership in Salt Lake City was about thirty, but the idea spread throughout the territory and other clubs were soon established. A Greek lamp was adopted as the club’s emblem, and in 1899 four members from the Salt Lake Woman’s Press Club attended a convention in London where they were entertained by Queen Victoria. The Press Club was formally dissolved by Susa Young Gates in 1928.
In January 1907 Romania and Charles left Salt Lake to preside over the European Mission. Upon their arrival in London Romania began to organize branches of the Relief Society while traveling through Europe with President Penrose. Romania wrote to the Exponent delighting in her travel down the “Rhine, the beautiful Rhine.” She described the “broad, deep, placid, blue river of romance” where the shores on either side “are dotted with towns and villages and castles, many old and ruined, built in times of long ago, having each a legend weird, romantic and mysterious.” Romania described the castles and grape vineyards, and took Exponent readers around every bend of the river peeking into towers, “gray and ice-covered, full of mystery.”
While in Europe, Romania was appointed by Governor John Cutler of Utah to attend the Woman’s International Suffrage Alliance held at Amsterdam on June 15, 1908. Representatives attended from all the civilized countries of the world. Romania addressed the convention on suffrage in the West, and her comments were well received. In May of the following year Romania again attended the International Alliance representing the Western states.
As their stay in Europe lengthened, Romania longed to return home to Zion. Writing to Emmeline and the Exponent, Romania reported with enthusiasm that there were now forty Relief Societies in Europe all in good condition, but she added with melancholy:
[I] feel that I shall almost walk the streets of Salt Lake as a stranger when I get home. I approach a new newspaper with some dread for fear of reading the death of some one I have known, and yet with that fear upon me I look the first thing to see who had died, and if I am a stranger to them I say to myself some one else is sad. . . .
I cannot tell you how much I long to have a heart to heart talk with you again. Do take care of yourself and not expose your health by being out late the coming cold winter nights. When I think of what you do at your time of life I feel ashamed of what little I can do, yet I am busy all the time and feel almost I have not time to read the papers because I need to do so many things. I have been making warm bonnets for the poor in our branch. I have made four and have two more and a cap to make. We have a milliner belonging to our branch Relief Society and she taught me how.
In June 1910 the Penroses were finally released. Romania wrote a farewell message to the Relief Societies in Europe announcing that forty-six societies had been established in the past three years where previously there had been but three. She advised each society “not to take pride in hoarding a large sum in the treasury, but rather to look about and see where good can be done and someone helped and comforted.” Leaving friends in England was difficult but President Penrose was now seventy-eight and Romania seventy-one, and they longed to reunite with friends and family in Utah.
Upon their return, Romania and Charles moved into their home at 1145 Ninth East in Salt Lake City. Though advanced in years they were still very energetic. Romania became hostess to many family gatherings. They attended the Salt Lake Theater, traveled often to Saltair, attended the Chicago World’s Fair, and visited Romania’s three sons in California.
In her later years Romania’s granddaughters described her as being a little bit heavy, but loving to dress up.
She always had fancy hats with a lot of flowers and things on her hats. She wore . . . elaborate blouses . . . and she had a lot of what they used to call pesimentary and sequins and beads, and she would sew the beads all over and she wore high collars and then she wore a choker around her neck to hold her chin in.
Though Romania returned to her medical practice for a short while, she found she was too busy to continue her practice and finally retired in 1912 after thirty-five years service as a practicing physician. President Penrose continued vigorously in his work as counselor in the First Presidency of the Church until his death on May 16, 1925. After Charles’ death, Romania’s final years revolved around her family, her work in Relief Society, and her reading. Toward the end of her life, she became blind and finally died on November 9, 1932, at the age of ninety-three. Romania was survived by four sons, ten grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Five years before her death, Emmeline B. Wells wrote a tribute to Romania:
A wondrous gift thou hast, I know thy power,
To help the sick, to comfort in distress;
Greater than riches is the potent dower,
The magic touch that charms like a caress.
“ Ralph R. Richards, “The History of Medicine in Utah,” Bulletin of the University of Memoir of Romania B. Pratt, M.D.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Archives (hereafter known as Church Archives), p. 1. These memoirs were written in 1881 when Romania was forty-two.
Relief Ralph R. Richards, “The History of Medicine in Utah,” Bulletin of the University of Utah, Vol. 36, No. 16 (June 1946), p .8.
Ibid., p. 7.
Our Pioneer Heritage, Kate B. Carter, ed., VI, p. 366.
“Memoir of Romania B. Pratt, M.D.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Archives (hereafter known as Church Archives), p. 1. These memoirs were written in 1881 when Romania was forty-two.
Dedication and Naming of 22 Buildings (Brigham Young University, 1954), p. 36.
Memoir, p. 2.
Ibid., p. 3.
Edna Sutherland and Phyllis Pratt Hoppie oral history interview, in possession of the author, p. 3.
Woman’s Exponent, Vol. 17, No. 7 (1 September 1888), p. 48.
Deseret News, 27 March 1937, p. 11.
Record of Romania Bunnell Pratt, original in possession of Edna P. Sutherland, Salt Lake City, Xerox copy available in Church Archives.
Our Pioneer Heritage, Kate B. Carter, ed., VI, p. 366.
Woman’s Exponent, Vol. 17 (1 September 1888), p. 48.
Memoir, p. 5.
Ibid., pp. 5-6.
Young Woman’s Journal, II (September 1891), p. 534.
Ibid., p. 533.
Memoir, p. 6.
Young Woman’s Journal, II (September 1891), p. 534.
Memoir, p. 6.
Young Woman’s Journal, I, No. 12 (September 1890).
Memoir, p. 7.
Memoir, p. 7.
Ibid., pp. 7-8.
Ibid., p. 8.
Woman’s Exponent, Vol. 6 (15 July 1877), p. 30.
Memoir, p. 10.
Woman’s Exponent, Vol. 6 (15 November 1877), p. 92
Woman’s Exponent, VII (1 April 1879), p. 217.
Ibid., VIII (1 June 1879), p. 5.
Ibid., XVIII (15 August 1890), p. 331.
Ibid., IX (1 October 1880), p. 65.
Sutherland and Hoppie interview, pp. 4, 11.
Woman’s Exponent, X (1 March 1882), p. 146.
Ibid., XIV (15 March 1886), p. 158.
Ibid., XI (15 July 1882), p. 28.
Our Pioneer Heritage, Kate B. Carter, ed., VI, pp. 412-13; Woman’s Exponent, XI (August 1882), p. 36.
Pioneer Heritage, VI, p. 415.
Ibid., p. 367.
Ibid., p. 415.
Woman’s Exponent, XIV (1 March 1882), p. 158.
Edward Tullidge, History of Salt Lake City, pp. 140-43.
Sutherland and Hoppie, p.
Charles W. Penrose Papers, Church Archives. In the third stanza ,“M” is an abbreviation for a name of endearment.
Young Woman’s Journal, II (September 1891), p. 535.
Ibid., I (October 1889), p. 29.
Ibid., I (December 1889), p. 93; I (January 1890), p. 123; I (June 1890), p. 331.
Woman’s Exponent, XVIII (15 August 1889), p. 45.
Ibid., XVIII (15 August 1889), p. 45.
Sutherland and Hoppie, p. 10.
Heart Throbs of the West, Kate B. Carter, ed., V, p. 165.
Ibid., p. 231.
Woman’s Exponent, XXXVI (October 1908), p. 53.
Ibid., XXXVII (August 1908), p. 14-15.
Ibid., XXXVIII, p. 42.
Millennial Star, Vol. 72 (9 June 1910), p. 858-59.
Sutherland and Hoppie, p. 7.
The Contribution of Medical Women During the First Fifty Years in Utah, Keith Terry (M.S., Brigham Young University, 1964), p. 48.
Society Magazine, XIX (December 1932), p. 720.