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STILL RELEVANT?  |   September 2017
Mother Still
Author Notes
  • Financial Disclosures: None reported. 
  • Support: None reported. 
  •  *Address correspondence to Thomas A. Quinn, DO, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine at Bradenton, 5000 Lakewood Ranch Blvd, Bradenton, FL 34211-4909. E-mail: tquinn@lecom.edu
     
Article Information
Pediatrics / Pulmonary Disorders
STILL RELEVANT?   |   September 2017
Mother Still
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2017, Vol. 117, 552. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2017.108
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, September 2017, Vol. 117, 552. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2017.108
Born in 1835, Mary Elvira Turner, later to be known as Mother Still, was a school teacher in Edgerton, Kansas. While visiting a neighbor in 1860, she was asked to examine the neighbor's children, who had become ill.1 Fearing the children had scarlet fever, Turner summoned the physician from Baldwin, a nearby town, to examine them. That night, Turner met Andrew Taylor Still, MD, a recently widowed father of 4.1 
The scarlet fever epidemic brought A.T. Still to Edgerton frequently, and he took every opportunity to court the young school teacher.2 When he asked Turner to marry him in 1860, she accepted under the condition that he stop chewing tobacco. He agreed, and they were married on November 25, 1860.2 Their daughter, Marcia, was born in 1863. Soon after, tragedy struck the Still family.2 Their oldest daughter, Marusha, was away visiting her grandparents when their 12-year-old son and 11- and 9-year-old daughters died of meningitis in February 1864.2 Then, less than 1 month later, their 1-year-old daughter, Marcia, died of pneumonia.2 Marusha was so distraught at the loss of her 4 younger siblings that she never moved back home.2 The Stills went from having a thriving family with 5 healthy, happy children to an empty house. 
The Stills eventually had 5 more children, but the failure of traditional medicine to save their children and A.T. Still's civil war experiences, which made him believe that the “ignorance in our ‘schools of medicine’” was the cause of so many deaths, were 2 experiences that led him to abandon conventional medicine.3 A.T. Still began to develop new theories and ideas about health care that eventually led to the creation of osteopathic medicine, but he was attacked by the medical community and rejected by his patients and church for his new, unorthodox medical practices.2 
A.T. Still was forced to become an itinerate physician, promoting his new theories and struggling to earn a meager living.3 Mary E. Still always supported her husband through these years of hardship. A.T. Still stated:

Over a quarter of a century my wife, Mary E. Still, has given her counsel, advice, consent, and encouraged me to go on and unfold the truths, laws, and principles of life; to open and proclaim them to the world by demonstration, which is the only method by which truth can be established.3(p451)

In the early years of the American School of Osteopathy, which opened in 1892, there were renewed attacks from conventional medicine, and Mary E. Still stood by her husband as they endured through these birth pangs of the profession.4 The osteopathic students affectionately referred to her as Mother Still.5(p72) 
Among these hardships, the Stills raised their 5 children, all of whom became osteopathic physicians. In 1910, after 50 years of marriage, Mary E. Still died. A.T. Still stated that his wife “had always encouraged and supported him, never suggesting he turn back, but always urged him onward,” and that he “could never have survived the early assaults and disappointments but for her optimism and faith.”5(p75) We may owe Mother Still a debt of gratitude for her role in ensuring A.T. Still persevered in founding osteopathy. 
References
Trowbridge C. Andrew Taylor Still, 1828-1917. Kirksville, MO: Thomas Jefferson University Press; 1991:85-86.
Still CEJr. Frontier Doctor, Medical Pioneer: The Life and Times of A.T. Still and His Family. Kirksville, MO: Thomas Jefferson University Press; 1991:47, 62-63.
Still AT. Autobiography of Andrew T. Still With a History of the Discovery and Development of the Science of Osteopathy. Kirksville, MO: published by the author; 1897.
Booth ER. History of Osteopathy and Twentieth-Century Medical Practice. Cincinnati, OH: Caxton Press; 1924.
Walter GW. The First School of Osteopathic Medicine. Kirksville, MO: The Thomas Jefferson University Press; 1992.