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Dr Bess Lee <I>Efner</I> Rehwinkel

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Dr Bess Lee Efner Rehwinkel

  • Birth 28 Mar 1873 Galesburg, Jasper County, Iowa, USA
  • Death 26 May 1962 Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
  • Burial Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA
  • Memorial ID 9953607

Dr. Bessie, as she was affectionately known, bucked tradition by becoming a woman doctor in the very early years of 1900. She sucessfully established practices in two small Iowa towns in spite of opposition to her sex. However, the panic of 1907 ruined her budding practice financially, and she lost all her savings, her home, and her office. She had only her clothing, her office equipment, and three orphaned nieces whom she had taken in.
She decided to make a new start and go out "where the West begins" - to Wyoming. Doctors were needed- even women doctors. She was given a homestead adjoining the townsite of Carpenter. A house was built for her, and she and her three nieces stepped over the threshold of their new home just one week before Christmas in 1907.
During the following years, Dr. Bessie learned that pioneering in a new country is a hard day-to-day struggle, a life-and-death struggle against hunger, drought, dust storms, blizzards, grasshoppers, hail, biting cold, frustration, and sometimes loneliness.
Her medical parish was 30 miles square. She traveled by horse and buggy. She served the people without the help of a drugstore, hospital, or nurse.
Late one evening she was awakened by a knock. The livery man from a nearby town brought a patient who needed immediate medical attention. She patched up the badly injured man - a young preacher recently arrived in the area.
Since Carpenter had no hospital facilities, she nursed him back to health in her own home - and lost her heart. She says, "I had loved my practice and never believed that anything could persuade me to give it up, but I discovered that there are greater things in the life of a woman than professional success. A woman may succeed in a man's profession and enjoy the independence of a career, but she remains a woman still."
On September 28, 1912, Dr. Bessie gave up her professional career to become the wife of a pastor in rural Canada.
The marriage lasted for more than 50 years, and as Dr. Bessie said, "I cannot conceive of a more perfect companionship and a happier marriage between two people in the world than ours has been. Not a day passes in which I do not thank God for bringing us together."
From the book, Dr. Bessie, as told by her, written by Alfred Rehwinkel, her husband, published by Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri.

Daughter of William Johnston Efner
and Priscilla Annette Templeton Efner. Sister to Elsie Efner, Ernest E. Efner, Earl E. Efner, and Ina Templeton Efner Stevens.

Family Members


  • Created by: Sunshine
  • Added: 25 Nov 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 9953607
  • Sunshine
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Dr Bess Lee Efner Rehwinkel (28 Mar 1873–26 May 1962), Find A Grave Memorial no. 9953607, citing Concordia Cemetery, Saint Louis, St. Louis City, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Sunshine (contributor 46632730) .