Representative Women of Deseret
A Book of Biographical Sketches to Accompany the Picture Bearing the Same Title.
Compiled and Written by August Joyce Crocheron

Mrs. Romania B. Pratt, M.D.

Romania Bunnell Pratt, daughter of Luther B. and Esther Mendenhall Bunnell, was born August 8, 1839, in Washington, Wayne County, Indiana. In her seventh year she went with her parents to Nauvoo, and had the privilege of visiting the Temple, and went with the Church to Winter Quarters. She says: “While there I well remember 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 the ranks.” From Winter Quarters her parents moved to Ohio where her whole time was spent in attending school, the last year and a half at the Crawfordsville Female Seminary. In 1855, her mother then being a widow, with her family of two girls and two boys and their worldly effects. again joined the Saints at Atchison, now Omaha, where she was first baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, on the last of May, 1855, just before commencing their journey with ox teams across the plains to Salt Lake City. where they arrived September 3d of the same year. The summer journey of these months was a series of changing panoramic scenes as enchanting to the free, careless heart of a child, as it was arduous to those of maturer years. Their arrival in the city of the Saints was during the grasshopper famine, when flour was twenty-five dollars per hundred eight, sugar forty cents per pound and everything in proportion, and although they had left plenty behind them, in the hands of guardians who refused to allow them any money, (the children all being minors) to come away among the Mormons, saying; They will rob you of it all as soon as you get there.” In consequence of this prejudice they arrived in Salt Lake City penniless and at a time when they with thousands of others had to learn the sweetness of the coarsest kind of bread. Romania taught day school and gave music lessons on the piano at intervals until she entered the medical profession. This lady was married to Parley P. Pratt, son of the Apostle, Parley P. Pratt, by President Brigham Young, and has had seven children; Parley P. Pratt, Luther B., Louis L., Corinne T., Mark C., Irwin E. and Roy B. Pratt. Her second son died in infancy, and her lovely daughter died when twenty months old.

Through a love of literary pursuit and surrounding circumstances her attention was turned to the medical profession which she entered in 1873 and graduated in the Woman’s Medical College of Philadelphia in March, 1877. After graduating she remained in Philadelphia and took special courses on the eye and ear at Wills’ Hospital and a dispensary on Chestnut Street, conducted by Dr. George Strawbridge. Leaving Philadelphia she spent a few weeks visiting Hydropathic institutions to learn something of the mode of administration and especially of water treatment.

Immediately on her arrival home she by request commenced giving lectures to ladies and agitated the question of a hospital for women and children, and by counsel on account of great demand of obstetrical aid needed in the numerous settlements, soon instituted a school of midwifery, and has taught two classes a year since, except when absent for special study in the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary where she spent eight months in 1881-2.

In 1874, when Eliza R. S. Smith organized the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Twelfth Ward, Mrs. Pratt was appointed President, which position she held though absent a portion of the time, until professional work compelled her resignation. She now holds the office of Treasurer of the Salt Lake Stake organization of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association, and is also one of the Board of Executors and medical attendant of the Deseret Hospital, organized 1882, beside having a busy practice Luther B. Bunnell, her father, was the inventor of a repeating fire arm, and at a critical period in the persecutions of the Saints; donated to them five hundred dollars in arms, and ammunition. Tracing her family record a few years back, we find in her mother’s line the names of Bayard Taylor and Benjamin West among her relatives. About the year 1837, a small pamphlet was published in Philadelphia giving the genealogy of her family, tracing theirs back to a Russian nobleman. Captain Mendenhall was the grandson of Benjamin, brother to John Mendenhall, the Puritan emigrant. Colonel Richard Thomas, brother to her great grandmother, was a member of Congress from Chester County, Pa., for many years.

Of medical members, Dr. Pratt’s family certainly has had a goodly number, and of these we select – Dr. Mendenhall, of Richmond, Indiana, her mother’s cousin, Dr. Marmaduke Mendenhall, of North Carolina, her cousin, Dr. Paris Mendenhall, her brother, Dr. James R. Mendenhall, of, Richmond, Indiana, her cousin, Nereus, Mendenhall, professor in New Garden Quaker College, also George D. and William Mendenhall, physicians. Beside these, many others of note occur, too many for less than a special volume. Her eldest son, Parley P. Pratt, also entered the New York School of Pharmacy, from which he expects to graduate in the spring of 1885.

Dr. Pratt is in appearance the very embodiment of health and happiness, her blooming cheeks, abundant loose ringlets without a line of gray, her dark eyes inspiring the dispirited with cheerfulness and hope, the cordial clasp of hand, a hand gentle, but somehow suggestive of the nerve, firmness, self possession and power the true healer holds, the intuition one receives of her sympathy and benevolence, if needed; all these are conveyed as upon an open page by the very presence of Dr. Dr. Pratt. Also, that other influence is felt that she too leans upon a higher power than human skill, the same Giver of life and health as the tenderest child looks up to.

Dr. Romania B. Pratt was the first “Mormon” woman graduate. Following her return as graduate, next came Dr. Ellis R. Shipp, 1878, Mattie Paul Hughes, M. D., 1883, Elvira S. Barney, M. D., 1883, and Margaret 0. Shipp, M. D., 1883. Drs. R. B. Pratt, Ellis R. Shipp and Elvira S. Barney are connected with the Deseret Hospital, founded in 1882.

[Representative Women of Deseret, 1884]

[transcribed by W. David Samuelsen]

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