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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Helena Scammon McGuire, M.D. (1865-1940) -- With Thanks to the Goldendale, Washington Community Library Staff!

Esther Clayson (later Pohl Lovejoy) was the second woman to graduate from the University of Oregon Medical Department in 1894. Helena Scammon was the first in 1893. And thanks to some newly-discovered materials, including her 1940 obituary from the Goldendale Sentinel located by the wonderful staff at the Goldendale, Washington Community Library, we know more about Helena Scammon McGuire’s life and subsequent career.

Born in Washington State, Scammon graduated from the UOMD with five male colleagues (one of whom, Emil Pohl, was the future husband of Esther Clayson) in April 1893. The Oregonian noted that “the Salem medal, for the best standing in the final examinations, was awarded to Miss Scammon, but as Dr. James B. Cutter stood only 1 4-10 per cent below Miss Scammon, the faculty presented him with a certificate of honorable mention.” (Hmmm . . . .)

Scammon returned to Washington State and married William McGuire in August 1894. The 1900 census of Goldendale, in Klickitat County, Washington lists Helena as a physician and William as a grain buyer. They had three children. William died in 1922. From 1923-1930 Helena served two terms as Klickitat County treasurer. She died in 1940, a long-time resident of Goldendale, physician and office holder.

Esther Clayson had to take a year off from her studies to work in order to finance her degree and so she did not graduate with her class in 1893; in other circumstances she and Scammon would have shared the honor of being the first women graduates of UOMD.

This new information helps us reclaim Scammon as an important figure in the history of Oregon and Washington and in the medical, political, and women’s history of the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks again, Goldendale librarians!


“Helena McGuire, County Pioneer, Passes Saturday,” Goldendale Sentinel, May 16, 1940, 1.

Entry for Helena Scammon McGuire in Who’s Who in Washington State vol. 1, 1927 (Seattle: Arthur H. Allen, 1927), 159.

“Got Their Diplomas,” Oregonian, April 4, 1893, 8.