Chiro-Picker’s Fresh Pick — Finding Mabel Palmer

Antique Collector, Todd Waters, is “The Chiro-Picker”

by  Todd Waters, aka “The Chiro-Picker” – SpinalColumnRadio featured blogger

Mabel Palmer. She’s known as “The First Lady of Chiropractic,” but do we really know that much about her???

  • Yes, she was wife to BJ Palmer, the developer of chiropractic.
  • Yes, she wrote Green book Volume 9 – Anatomy and taught the course at the Palmer School of Chiropractic (PSC).
  • And yes, some of us know she wrote Stepping Stones a book of her world travels with BJ and their son David.
…But it seems one really has to do a lot of searching on the net and publications to find out any more about her.  My searches became even more sparse from 1925 to her death in 1949. I also noticed there aren’t as many photos as you would think of the first lady of chiropractic.

There’s a particular chapter in her book Stepping Stones entitled “A Soliloquy” that I like. It’s a personal account of her family life living on 828 Brady Street.  When reading it, it becomes very apparent she was a devoted wife and mother — while being equally devoted to the school and students of the PSC.  She would open her home to room and board students and teach classes, so much so that her displaced family would find themselves in the backyard pitching a tent. That’s dedication! 

She called herself “The Hurry Lady” because she was always rushing off to complete series of countless tasks.

I got the sense she was a very busy lady and one to step up to any task, but did not wish to be in the spotlight.  (Maybe that’s why she has been such a difficult subject of interest for this chiropicker to find).

…Then I came across an old photo postcard that featured Mabel as the President of the Quota Club 1927.

The Quota Cub was birthed out of the incredible service-oriented workforce of civilian women during the first World War. Women realized their own enormous potential in the workplace outside their homes. In 1927 Mabel was voted to be the 5th president of the growing Quota Club International with its headquarters becoming the Palmer’s Davenport home until her term was up in 1928.

Dedicated antique collectors like myself are always on the lookout for clues, large and small, that might lead to more information about our finds and ultimately… more finds.  As the ChiroPicker even the smallest of information breadcrumbs can direct me to some interesting treasures — such was the case with Mabel’s involvement with the Quota Club.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled across one of those impossibly long-framed photos — you know the ones that show off  a large group of people.  

This one was of the Quota Club taken in Winnipeg, 1930.

I tried to find Mabel in the group, but they were all wearing hats that masked their features.  So I bought the photo and took it home for careful study in search of possible Mabel candidates.   Using my photos of Mabel for comparison, I was able to select the lady I thought most resembled her. I wasn’t entirely convinced, however, and certainly didn’t feel I had enough evidence to convince others. So, unfortunately this mystery became a “cold case” for the ChiroPicker, forcing me to go about my business of seeking out other chiropractic items.

As disappointing as cold cases can be, they always have the potential of “warming up” — and that is exactly what happened. A few days ago I came across an article that recently appeared on a Google search.  The article came from the Davenport Library and was entitled “‘Quietly Utilizing Our Total Ability’: The Davenport Quota Club”.  Along with the article, I was excited to see an unfamilar photo of Mabel listing her as the Quota Club International president along with a Quota Club group shot taken during one of the years of her leadership. After requesting an enlargement of the photo from the Davenport Library, I scanned the faces of the group of women and was able to immediately, without a doubt, spot Mabel. (Luckily she was not wearing a hat). So, with my now confidently identified Mabel photo in hand, I went to my other Quota Club photo to compare it side by side with my “Mabel candidate.” After cross-checking her various features (shape of nose, chin, neck, hands and legs)…

I am now confident that I have found Mabel in BOTH photos!

As an aside, while the Davenport Library article did not mention the fact that Mabel was a chiropractor, it did state that

Davenport’s branch of the Quota Club “was the first club to have a local objective – the encouragement and promotion of the underprivileged girl through interest and co-operation of Quotarians.”   

I can’t help but speculate that Mabel had a hand in coordinating this effort by encouraging women to become chiropractors.  After all, she made quite an impression on the worldwide Quota chapters to be voted as their international president.  Perhaps there is a correlation with Mabel’s Quota Club service and promoting the “World of Chiropractic” to females. Class composites of this time frame show some of the largest classes in PSC history. A great  number of these students were females.

It is exciting to rescue a photo of Mabel that had been long forgotten.   I’m all about finding rusty, dusty chiropractic relics — but it is the backstories that distinguish these item treasures from neglected junk.  And I get to learn a little history on the side.  This pick has taught me there is a lot more to the Mabel Palmer story than we may ever know, and there is still much to discover.

‘Til next time.  — CP

The DC Angle:

Patty Ribley, DC

“We want to follow in the footsteps of Mabel….”

There is a shift occurring within the Chiropractic profession. This change is — and has been — taking place at a gradual and steady pace, and as it continues to gain momentum, it is apparent that it will be the impetus and the driving force that will propel our noble profession to incredible new heights. This phenomenon is the propulsion and rise of the amount of women going into chiropractic. This shift has propelled a small group of very inspiring and powerful group of women to come together and create The LCW (League of Chiropractic Women) — to support, empower and create the future leaders of our profession. We want to follow in the footsteps of Mabel Palmer and bring our profession’s focus back to subluxation detection and correction; and give women purpose and a success system that speaks to them from a feminine spirit. To join the League you can go to our website www.lcwomen.com and gather all the details of all our events, conference calls, and support systems we have created for all women that love and support ChiropracTIC!   

Dr. Patty Ribley is passionate about finding new ways to support and empower women in chiropractic to find their passion and purpose in life.   She is a co-founder and co-president of  The League of Chiropractic Women and practices alongside her chiropracTOR husband, Larry, in Tampa, Florida where she focuses on caring for families, children, and pregnant women.

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