Dr. Helen Walker McAndrew was one of Ypsilanti’s first women doctors. She immigrated, with her husband, from Scotland in 1849. In 1852 she gave birth to her son Thomas then left to attend the Trail Hydropathic Institute in New York City, paying her way by dish washing and other odd jobs. She received her degree in 1854 and came back to Ypsilanti to begin practicing. Upon arriving back in Ypsilanti, she was not accepted as a doctor due to her gender. Because of this, she worked mostly with African Americans and poor white families. In 1863, she gave birth to her second son, William. Around the same time, she received her big break when the wife of Samuel Post, a very prominent man in Ypsilanti, became ill. The male doctors of the town were unsuccessful in treating her illness, and it was suggested that Mr. Post give the “Lady Doctor” a chance. She cured Mrs. Post with medicine, sunlight, and baths. Treating Mrs. Post not only pushed her into the public sphere, but also gave her the idea to open her own Sanatorium. In 1870, she opened the “Rest for the Weary” Water Cure. It was located directly on the Huron River and worked on curing patients with water treatments and sunlight.
Besides medicine, Dr. Walker was also active in many early movements including women’s suffrage, abolitionism, campaigning for women’s admittance into medical school, and temperance. Dr. Walker entertained prominent suffragists, such as, Susan B. Anthony and Lillie Deveraux Blake, at her home. Her home was also a stop on the Underground Railroad, where her and her husband would house runaway slaves before taking them to Trenton to be ferried to Canada.
Dr. Helen Walker McAndrew died in October of 1906. This was not before seeing not one, but both of her sons also becoming significant doctors in Ypsilanti.
Vertical Files, General Subjects: Ypsilanti Historical Society.