By David K. Leff
Female doctors were rare in the late nineteenth century so it’s remarkable that Ida Gridley Case (1862-1904) not only practiced medicine in small village like Collinsville, but that she was a native of Canton. Case became a member of the Canton Center Congregational Church in 1876, graduated from Collinsville High School in 1880, and then from Wesleyan University in Middletown in 1884. She taught at a private school in Canton Center for a while and then began studying medicine with a couple of Collinsville doctors.
Case attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Boston and later did post graduate work at the Collegeof Physicians in New York. She specialized in diseases of the eye and ear and “was considered by the profession one of the best experts in the state,” according to The Hartford Times. She delivered papers on her specialty at meetings in New York, Philadelphia and Hartford.
On her return from New York, Dr. Case set up practice in Collinsville and joined Trinity Episcopal Church. Around 1882 she married Oliver Case. Their daughter Ella was 10 years old at her mother’s death. The marriage was not a happy one and ended in divorce after a few years, quite unusual in those days. A newspaper reported that “those who hate divorce on general principles say ‘If divorce is ever right she ought to have one.’ Sympathy is with her generally.”
Dr. Case died at age 41 after a weeklong bout with pneumonia. She “was held in the highest esteem in this community,” The Times wrote. “She was known for her practical sympathy for the poor and distressed, and many poor people have had the benefit of her professional skill and knowledge without her service costing them anything. . . . Her death is a decided loss to the community.” Another writer observed that “a more ideal woman as a humanitarian never lived. . . . What a happy and ideal world this would be if all its inhabitants were of the mental and moral makeup of Ida Gridley Case.”
Dr. Ida Gridley Case is buried in Dyer Cemetery, Canton.
For more about Dr. Case, see Canton Remembers: Incidents in Local History, Dr. and Mrs. Lawrence S. Carlton, editors, p. 143, “Ida Rachel Gridley Case, M. D.” The book is available at the Canton public library and the Canton Historical Museum.
“Your Silent Neighbors” introduces readers to people out of Canton’s past. It will appear on the first and fifteenth of each month. Readers are encouraged to visit these gravesites and pay their respects to the people who have helped make our community what it is today. Any suggestions, questions, or corrections should be addressed to Town Historian David Leff at firstname.lastname@example.org