Skip to Content

Frances Proctor Ames Collection

About the Collection

In the 1880’s it was difficult to find a woman who worked in any profession outside the home, much less a female physician. In 1885 Frances Proctor Ames graduated from the University of Buffalo Medical Department and began practicing as an obstetrician/gynecologist in Western New York. Dr. Ames was born in 1856 and was one of the first women to graduate from UB’s medical school.

This collection features letters received by Frances Proctor Ames until her death in 1929. The majority of the correspondence is between Dr. Ames and Louise Downer, a classmate. The remaining correspondence is between Dr. Ames and a Dr. W.O.A. Langs, who also practiced in the area and graduated from UB’s medical school, as well as a mentor, Dr. John Eddy. There are several examples of letters sent from patients, asking Dr. Ames for her assistance with childbirth or a health emergency. The collection also features prescriptions written by Dr. Ames, medical notes scribbled on scraps of paper, treatment plans, and old examinations from her time at UB. Dr. Ames’ thesis can be read as a part of the collection, and is surprisingly short.

From the prescriptions to the thesis, this collection reflects a time when patients sent their doctors letters asking for a house call when they were ill. With constant changes in medical research and technology today, it is important to appreciate just how far medicine has come.

In 2023, University at Buffalo graduate students Allie Fuller and Lawrence Lorraine Mullen collaborated with University Archives and the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection to complete a digital humanities project mapping Frances Proctor Ames and Louise Downer Benzing as they moved throughout Western New York during the 19th century. "19th Century Medical Women: Tracing Frances Proctor Ames & Louise Downer Benzing Through Western New York" combines digital scans of archival material, narrative text, and an interactive map of Western New York to tell the story of these two medical professionals.