Wonderful Women of Norwood: Dr. Harriet Emeline Rogers
By Norwood Historical Society members Karen DeNapoli, Laurie Kearney, Linda Rau
Dr. Harriet E. Rogers arrived in Norwood in 1923 to practice medicine. In 1922, the number of practicing female doctors in the greater Boston area were merely 10% of all practicing doctors; this statistic alone would make Dr. Rogers a trailblazer. As a doctor, she most definitely made a difference in her patient’s lives, but as resident of Norwood, her community spirit and dedication to helping others made a big difference to so many in Norwood—and still does! It is for these reasons the Norwood Historical Society would like to highlight Harriet Rogers as one of the Wonderful Women of Norwood.
Harriet Emeline Rogers was born February 1, 1892, in Amherst, NH. She was the only child of Charles A. Rogers and Emma Fuller. She was named after her grandmothers; Harriet (Jones) Rogers and Emaline (Langlands) Fuller. Harriet grew up in Boston, even though her family’s roots ran deep in the towns of Amherst and Merrimack, New Hampshire. It is likely the family moved to Boston because there were more job opportunities for Charles. Harriet’s parents divorced in 1906, when Harriet was just a teenager. Emma remained in Boston where she ran a hospital. The 1910 census shows Emma and Harriet living in the hospital along with the nurses and female patients. It is likely that from living in this environment, Harriet became inspired to seek a career in health care.
Harriet attended Simmons College and was a member of the class of 1914. It appears her major would have been “General Science,” as that course of study would have prepared her for her next educational step. After graduating from Simmons, Harriet entered the Massachusetts General Hospital’s School of Nursing. During the years that encompassed World War I, Harriet was the head nurse at the Resthaven Hospital, a private hospital in Dorchester. Apparently not satisfied with nursing, Harriet entered Tufts Medical School; she graduated in 1922, took a 1923 internship at Worcester Memorial Hospital (now the UMass Memorial Medical Center), then came to Norwood, where she not only established her medical practice, but also her home. When Harriet settled in Norwood, her mother Emma came with her. They first rented an apartment on Day Street, where their next door neighbor was Fred Holland Day, and by 1940, they had moved around the corner to a home on Beech Street. Not only did mother and daughter live together, Emma Rogers continued to work well into her seventies, working as receptionist in Harriet’s medical office. Emma (Fuller) Rogers died in 1952 and was buried in New Hampshire in the family plot.
After Harriet moved to Norwood, she took an active role in the community, giving of her time and talents. Professionally, Harriet took an active role in the growth of the Norwood Hospital. She headed up the general practice list and was one of the founding members of the Norwood Hospital Medical Staff when the group was formerly established in 1926. Over the years she served as its President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary. She was the doctor for the Norwood Public Schools for eighteen years, and during World War II she served as the pre-employment medical examiner for women in industry in Norwood. Within the larger medical community, she was a member of the MGH Outpatient Department, she annually conducted a three-month medical service at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, and was a medical examiner for incoming freshman at Wellesley College for many years. She was a Member of the Massachusetts Medical Association for over fifty years.
Outside of her medical responsibilities, Harriet became an active participant in Norwood’s community life. She was a member the First Congregational Church of Norwood, the Norwood Women’s Club, the Norwood Historical Society, and a charter member of the Women’s Community Committee. In 1975, Harriet worked with a committee to create Norwood’s Meals on Wheels program. She reached out to several kitchens that would be willing and able to make the meals and handle and store the food. Eventually she spoke to the Ellis Nursing and Rehabilitation center, which enthusiastically agreed to be the food preparation site. Today, this program is still going strong, delivering healthy meals to Norwood’s disabled and as well as to senior citizens who are homebound.
The Norwood Historical Society benefited from Harriet’s generosity when she donated her collection of Sandwich glass to the society. The collection is a special edition from 1859 that commemorates the first telegraph cable laid across the Atlantic Ocean. Although Sandwich glass is known for their elaborate lacy patterns, the design of this dinner set is a rather simple pattern emulating the look of a twisted cable. Harriet’s kind donation is displayed in a place of honor at the society. Visitors can see it on the landing of the Day House’s grand staircase in the Everett Furniture Company’s walnut hutch.
Harriet died June 17, 1981, in Norwood. Obituaries note she only left two cousins behind to mourn her loss. They do not mention the many Norwoodians that were touched by Harriet’s life. The Women’s Community Committee donated a library cart to the Norwood Hospital so that books could easily be brought to the patient’s rooms in her honor. The Norwood Hospital Medical Staff, who had made her an honorary member when she retired, issued an official resolution of sympathy to her family and friends, publishing it in a local newspaper. These small gestures indicate how much Harriet was respected in Norwood. Harriet was buried in New Hampshire, next to her mother, in the Fuller family plot.
“A Brief History of Simmons College: 1899-1999” simmons.edu/library/history-exhibits. Boston, MA: Simmons College, n.d.
Moehling, Caroline, et al. “Shut Down and Shut Out: Women Physicians in the Era o Medical Education Reform” Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University, Bloomington. April 2019
Lane, Donna. “Meals on Wheels Celebrates 40th Anniversary” Local Town Pages: Norwood. norwoodtownpages.com 1 Jul 2015, page 10