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From law breakers to law makers, suffragists to unionists, bronc riders to ball players, Bold Women of Montana celebrates Women’s History Month in our state! Learn more about 23 bold women of Montana. Listen every weekday in March at 8:42 a.m. and 2:04 p.m., and find the latest episodes here.

Bold Women: Caroline McGill, doctor and 'force of nature'

Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives

Moving to Butte in 1911, Caroline McGill called it, quote, “the wilderness” and “the biggest fool mistake.” But she came to love Butte, and Montana.

She grew up in Missouri, a midwife’s daughter. Over eight years, supporting herself, she acquired a bachelor’s, masters in zoology, and PhD in anatomy & physiology.

A former classmate invited her to Butte to be the hospital pathologist. For about a year she diagnosed disease and helped establish a tuberculosis hospital on the side.

But witnessing Butte’s tremendous need, Caroline decided to become a medical doctor. She went to Johns Hopkins, returning to Butte with her MD in 1916. For 40 years, she treated everything from knifings and venereal disease to the most common thing, mining accidents.

In 1917, when a fire in the Speculator Mine killed 165 men, Caroline and every Butte doctor labored to save the 245 survivors and their rescuers.

In 1918, she battled influenza, which stole a thousand lives in Butte.

Caroline also loved delivering babies and treating kids—even as she educated parents about birth control.

In the late 1930s, 20 percent of Butte homes still had only outhouses. Thirty percent had no bath or shower. Caroline needed solace.

She bought a ranch near Bozeman, conserved thousands of acres around Yellowstone Park, and collected Montana memorabilia.

Donating her collection, she cofounded Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies. Caroline McGill was a force of nature—a force for good in Montana.

Beth Judy is the author of Bold Women in Montana History and a limited audio series based on the book. She previously hosted and produced The Plant Detective, a locally produced and nationally syndicated program.
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