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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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HILL, Nancy

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Dr. Nancy Hill
HILL, Nancy. (West Cambridge, MA, Nov. 19, 1833-Dubuque, IA, Jan. 8, 1919). Dr. Hill, the first woman doctor to serve Dubuque, was president of the Woman Suffrage Association of Dubuque. As an army nurse during the CIVIL WAR, Hill was stationed at Washington, D.C.'s Armory Square Hospital within seventy-five miles of such bloody battles as Antietam, Chancellorsville, and the Battle of the Wilderness. Advised to study medicine by the chief surgeon, she attended the University of Michigan, the only school of the period to accept women, and graduated in the second class at the age of forty-one. (1)
Dr. Hill's house and clinic at 1071-75 Locust where the public library now stands. Photo courtesy: Center for Dubuque History.

Dr. Hill moved to Dubuque in 1875 and opened her office on Locust Street. She specialized in obstetrics for forty years and by her own account delivered nearly one thousand babies. Highly respected by her peers in the medical profession, Hill was a member of the Dubuque Medical Association, Cedar Valley Medical Society, American Medical Association and the Iowa State Medical Society.

In 1896 Dr. Hill founded the Women's Rescue Society of Dubuque. One of the first girls she attempted to help was Anna Altman who was being returned to Dubuque by authorities. (2) Approaching the Thanksgiving season in 1896, she organized a Donation Party at the home on November 18th. Staples like provisions, bedding, cotton cloth and flannel for infants' wear were important. Cash donations could be given to G. F. Thormamn, the druggist, or to her at her Locust Street address. (3) She became a well-known member of society whether participating with other veterans in speaking to school children on Memorial Day or joining with others to bid farewell to someone leaving town. Dr. Hill was elected an alternate to, and attended, the state encampment of the WOMEN'S RELIEF CORPS in 1897. She spoke to groups like the DUBUQUE LADIES' LITERARY ASSOCIATION in December, 1900. Through these efforts and those of others, the Iowa Legislature in April that year authorized $2,000 her rescue home. (4)

As she reached her eightieth birthday, ST. LUKE'S UNITED METHODIST CHURCH accepted the responsibility of operating the home with contributions coming from many of the other churches in Dubuque. Eventually the home was operated by the North Iowa Conference of the Methodist Church. (5) Upon her death, the institution was renamed HILLCREST BABY FOLD in her memory. It later became HILLCREST FAMILY SERVICES.

In 1908 Dr Hill was elected vice-president of the Ottumwa Mount Holyoke Club Alumnae Association of the well-known school. (6) As president of the Woman's Suffrage Association in Dubuque, Dr. Hill was controversial. She placed much of the blame for the weak support for women's suffrage on the DAUGHTERS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. She felt the group tended to be content telling of the glory of their ancestors instead of battling to gain the same principles of law for themselves. (7)



1. Portrait and Biographical Record of Dubuque, Jones and Clayton Counties, Iowa. Chicago: Chapman Publishing Company, 1894, p. 171

2. "Anna Altman Has a Chance," The Dubuque Herald, January 24, 1896, p. 8

3. "A Chance to Give," The Dubuque Herald, November 15, 1896, p. 8

4. "For Rescue Home," The Dubuque Herald, April 11, 1892, p. 8

5. Ibid.

6. Dr. Nancy Hill Elected," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 30, 1908, p. 15

7. Portrait...