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First BHS women to become physicians, take two

CORRECTION Missing link at story's end has been added.

By Fred Steiner, Icon founder

Dr. Rosella Louise Biederman Boehm, M.D.
Born: March 12, 1897, Died: Nov. 8, 1955
Bluffton High School class of 1914
Bluffton College class of 1919

Declaring Dr. Mary Alice Howe Thomas as the first female Bluffton High School graduate to become a physician proves that nothing is ever certain.

Last week we stated that Dr. Thomas, BHS 1940, holds this title. Soon after this story was posted, we discovered two earlier female physicians who lived in the Bluffton School district. They are: 

Rosella L. Biederman Boehm, (1897-1955), 1914 Bluffton High School graduate, who became a physician in 1925. 

Ida Eby, (1881-1960), who attended the Diller county school, part of the Bluffton system in Richland Township, who became a physician in 1919. We will focus on Ida in a later feature, as we continue to collect details about her medical career.

We recognize these three each as pioneer female physicians, who attended or graduated from Bluffton schools.

Rosella Biederman Boehm
Rosella graduated in 1923 from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. In 1925 she was certified as a physician by the National Board of Medical Examiners of the United States of America. 

Her medical career began with an interest in becoming a medical missionary. However, while she was listed as a prospective missionary to China through the General Conference Mennonite Church, she never entered the mission field. 

She opened a practice in Bluffton in the late 1920s in what became known as the Biederman Apartments at the corner of Main and Kibler. She served on the medical staff of Bluffton sanitarium, on Main Street, which became Bluffton Community Hospital, located on Garau Street in 1937.

In 1930 she opened a practice in Jenera, practicing there until her career was cut short when she died in 1955 following a 14-month illness from cancer. Locally, she was known as Dr. Biederman, although on May 28, 1946, at age 49, she married John G. Boehm of Jenera. Here’s her story:

Rosella Biederman grew up in the rural Bluffton-Pandora Swiss Settlement. Her parents were George Frederick and Katharina Baumgartner Biederman. Through this family she counted persons with surnames of Baumgartner, Amstutz, Ramseyer, Neuenschwander, Sprunger and Nusbaum as relatives.

It is not certain which Richland Township rural country school she attended. These schools taught students through the eighth grade. Following that, students either attended Bluffton High School or their schooling ended. The majority of students attending these Swiss Settlement country schools grew up speaking a Swiss dialect at home and did not speak English until entering school. This could easily have been the case with Rosella.

The first mention of her found in the Bluffton News is from June of 1910. She was one of 29 Richland Township rural eighth graders to participate in the Boxwell-Paterson Richland Township commencement held in the Bluffton town hall. This was Ohio’s first proficiency exam raising standards in the eighth grade allowing all who passed to attend high school. The News stated that each graduate recited a poem, essay or short oration committed to memory.

Click HERE for the rest of the story.