#WHM – Mary Thompson Stevens, M.D., Delta Gamma

Today is the date on which Delta Gamma and Phi Delta Theta celebrate Founders’ Day. (For information about the connection these two organizations share, see http://wp.me/p20I1i-AS). I wish them both a very Happy Founders’ Day, but it is an amazing Delta Gamma I’d like to highlight during #WHM (Women’s History Month).

The November 1949 Anchora told of Dr. Steven’s death with the headline “First Anchora  editor dies in Detroit.” She was born on January 29, 1864 and she was initiated into Eta chapter at Buchtel College. It was during her junior year that the second convention made the decision to publish a Delta Gamma magazine. The duty fell to Eta chapter and Mary Thompson became the first editor. She edited the April and November 1884 issues. She then transferred to the University of Michigan where she founded the Xi chapter. In 1885 she received her bachelor’s from Michigan and, in 1889, her medical degree. On March 16, 1892 she married Dr. Rollin H. Stevens.

In a 1935 Anchora, Helen Jo Ramsdell Parker wrote about Dr. Mary Thompson Stevens:

At the age of sixteen Mary Thompson left her home in Lapeer, Michigan, with one hundred dollars in her possession (which was all of the outside financial assistance which she was destined to receive during her entire collegiate career) and matriculated, in 1881, at Antioch College in Ohio. After one year there she left for Buchtel College (now Akron University) where she was initiated into Delta Gamma, and where she became the first Anchor editor. In 1884 she went to the University of Michigan with the prospect of better pay for her necessary work as assistant in the Library and Chemistry Laboratory. Mary took from Buchtel the fond hope of establishing Delta Gamma at Ann Arbor. This she did with the help of her great chum, Frances Thompson Mulliken, and so began Xi Chapter in the fall of 1885. The following June she received her B.A. degree, and three years later was awarded her M.D. The next year she assisted two professors in their work and received the munificent sum of $200 for her efforts.

With all of this wealth she left Ann Arbor for the great city of Detroit and confidently opened her office there in 1889. Her specialty was obstetrics, and I may say here that this small woman of five feet one had to impress the world by her ability rather than by stature. She was greatly aided, of course, by her exceptional smile, her understanding of people, and her grand sense of humor which is illustrated by her acceptance of a quart of hickory nuts as her fee for her first obstetrical case.

In 1892 Dr. Thompson married Dr. Rollin H. Stevens, and they spent their honeymoon at Leland Stanford where they continued their studies for a year. When they returned to Detroit, Dr. Stevens might have  been content to be the well-known wife of an eminent husband, but instead they both decided to become famous. Dr. Rollins Stevens is noted for his work in dermatology and cancer, x-ray, and radium. He is a member of the staff at Grace Hospital where Dr. Mary Stevens, for fifteen years, was a pediatrician – a unique achievement in those days. She was also a pioneer in the study of social hygiene and was the first to speak educationally to mothers on that subject.

After leaving her beloved sorority at Ann Arbor, Dr. Stevens and a few other college women, Frances T. Mulliken among them, formed the Detroit branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, now known as the A.A.U.W. She was its first treasurer and was also a sectional vice president from 1902 to 1904, and again from 1926 to 1930. It was in the Association of Collegiate Alumnae that she began her intensive study of penology. After working in the State Legislature to pass a woman’s reformatory bill, she was appointed first woman commissioner of the Board of the Detroit House of Corrections and later served as its president. It was while in this office that she became warden of nearly nine hundred prisoners when the acting superintendent and his associates resigned. From the Sing Sing Prison Star Bulletin in May, 1919, one learns that “Detroit has a woman prison warden…meaning a new regime in prison management…Dr. Mary Thompson Stevens, one of the great pioneers in prison reform…” Her successor was found after her unremunerated month-long stay in office, but during that time she introduced reforms, nearly all of which have been continued.

Always a leader, Dr. Stevens in 1908 formed the Equal Suffrage League of College Women over which she presided until woman’s suffrage became an accomplished fact. She is also a charter member of the Twentieth Century Club and is director of two of its four departments: i.e., the department of philosophy and science, and the department of philanthropy and reform. Dr. Stevens has attended two conventions of the Federation of Women’s Club as delegate.

Included in her philanthropic activities is her work in the Girls’ Protective League since its inception twenty-four years ago, and her active service on the Board of the Children’s Aid Society for twenty years. She has also presided over Priscilla Inn, Detroit’s hotel for business girls, for the past ten years.

Since Dr. Stevens’ retirement from medial practice two years ago, because of a heart ailment, she has traveled extensively with her husband, attending medical congresses and seeing countries she no chance to see before. Of all her travels she prefers her journeys to Alaska and Lapland.

She still contributes to medical and club magazines and she is still loyal to our Alumnae Chapter here. In fact when one considers the multitude of responsibilities that has filled her life, it seems that this alumna’s love for our sorority must have been exceedingly deep. So we take this occasion to pay homage to this Detroit Delta Gamma, who has not only helped alleviate pain, but also continues prominent in civic affairs and is still devoted to progressive reform in welfare work.

Delta Gamma, however, is most fortune that in spite of Dr. Steven’s active professional life, she has found time to raise a daughter (Frances Stevens Harris, Xi) to Delta Gammahood, and this, to her mind, is her greatest contribution to her sorority.

Anchor purchased at a DG Convention

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory.

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