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Clara Hale Gregory, Class of 1907, Inducted in 2003

At first glance, Clara Gregory’s life doesn’t seem so unusual for a working woman.  She juggled a busy career, marriage, raising children, and a variety of hobbies.  It’s only when you realize that Clara was born in 1897 and graduated from high school in 1907 that her story becomes so intriguing.

Born in Palmyra, New York, the Hale family moved to Fayetteville where Clara attended school.  After graduation, she briefly attended Elmira College, but returned home, wanting to become a missionary nurse.  Her parents objected, so Clara applied to Syracuse University Medical College  at the age of 16 and was accepted, one of only four women in her class of 35.  Her grandmother paid the tuition, a fee of $450. 

As a young student, Clara took the trolley that ran from Fayetteville to Syracuse to get to classes.  Her life was studying and classes, including treks to St. Joseph’s Hospital on foot in the winter wearing the long skirts worn by women at that time.  During the summer, she worked at the Philadelphia Women’s and Children’s Hospital, ringing the bell on a horse-drawn ambulance.

During her senior year, Clara moved to a women’s cooperative house, located where Crouse Hospital now stands.  She continued her studies as well as doing her share of chores around the house to pay for her room and board.  After completing medical training, she was appointed Assistant Police Surgeon, earning a salary of $200 per year.  She cared for juvenile delinquents, abandoned and abused children and rape victims. 

In 1915, Clara married George Gregory and had four children, two girls and two boys.  But this happy chapter in Clara’s life ended abruptly when her husband died unexpectedly while their youngest was still a baby.  The young widow resigned from her job, and moved her family back to Fayetteville into what had been a tenant house on her parents’ property.

She spent the next twenty years raising her family, but felt compelled to return to medicine in World War II, due to a critical shortage of doctors.  Three of her children were away, involved in the war effort.  She was offered a job at the Onondaga County Sanitarium, which provided long-term care for tuberculosis patients.  With her children grown and gone, she threw herself into her work.  She was proud to contribute to the virtual elimination of tuberculosis.  The sanitarium closed in 1959.

At that point, Clara decided it was time to slow down and enjoy travel, her family and her many hobbies.  These included American history, gardening, nature and her dogs.  She kept active in the community and her church. 

She died in 1983, at the age of 92.  Many would consider Dr. Gregory a pioneer and an inspirational role model for women.  She was a woman of great spirit and personal strength.  But those who knew her said Clara never saw herself as anything unusual.  She was simply living life as best she knew how.








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