Mabel & Florence


Mabel & Florence


Surgeons gonna surgeon, and Dr. Mabel Seagrave was practically giddy about what she could learn by going to war.

She anticipated “a wonderful advance in surgical knowledge through the enforced operations made necessary by unusual wounds.” ⚕️& 🌈 thread.

Mabel was valedictorian of Seattle High. She followed her friend Florence Denny east to @Wellesley, where they were the first students from Seattle.

Florence married a man after college, then soon divorced. From 1910-1912 Florence was teaching in China and Japan, while Mabel was in medical school. At @JohnsHopkins Medical School Mabel was one of 7 women in a class of 89. (She's #34 in the photo.)

Mabel was a lot of fun. She did a mean Teddy Roosevelt impression, Mussolini too. She liked fast horses. Though she attended Seattle society functions in a dress, she usually wore a shirt and tie.

When the US entered the war, Mabel was eager to go to France. Florence volunteered to go with her. They shipped out together in NAWSA’s Women’s Oversea Hospital Unit, created to showcase the skill of women doctors whom the army didn’t want. See 👉 for detail.

In southern France, Mabel and Dr. Marie Formad of Philadelphia ran a hospital for 10,000 refugee women and children. Farther from the front than the NAWSA units in the north, their biggest enemy was the 1918 flu. They worked 18hr days; Mabel also traveled 40 miles 2x/wk to village clinics. “Dr. Seagrave labored as a Superwoman to check the plague, and to relieve the suffering of those who fell victim to it,” said Florence to a reporter.

Florence had trained to be an X-ray tech, but the ship carrying the equipment was torpedoed, so she “turned her hand to any and all tasks,” said Mabel admiringly.

They stayed on together at the end of the war to tend to the sick. In March 1919 France gave Mabel a medal for her service in the face of the pandemic. She is wearing it on her uniform at this dinner honoring the two of them back in Seattle. 

After the war, Florence became a probation officer in Seattle Juvenile Court, a job she did for 20 years. Mabel’s career thrived. She became chief of staff of Seattle General Hospital, and in 1928 was one of 2 women and 600 men admitted to the American College of Surgeons.

Maybe something changed between Mabel and Florence in those years, or maybe they were always just friends. I mean, it’s possible. 🤷 We know that in 1927 Mabel’s father died. She rented out the house she had shared with him, and moved in with a woman - not Florence.

Willye White was also a Wellesley grad, and a widow with three children. One account describes Mabel as “an honorary aunt” to Willye’s teen sons and young daughter. The five of them spent 1929 on a fabulous family trip around the world, including 3 months in Vienna, where Mabel visited at local hospitals.

Mabel and Willye were at their dinner table on a Sunday night in 1935 when Mabel collapsed and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 53. She left Willye a diamond ring, and the rest of her estate was split between Willye’s daughter and Florence Denny.


Daily Suffragist




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Daily Suffragist, “Mabel & Florence,” Daily Suffragist, accessed February 8, 2023,

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