The Desk that Inspired

By ML Condike

Yes folks, an old desk inspired me to write my first novel, The Desk from Hoboken. My husband bought it at a yard sale in Barre, Massachusetts, packed it into his Ford Flex, and drove 1,800 miles to Texas. It sits in a room on the top floor of our home on Big Pine Key, Florida.

It belonged to Dr. Isabelle D. Kerr, born in Boston in 1880. According to her grand-niece, Isabelle’s father encouraged her to pursue her dream. With his influence, she gained admission to Tuffs Medical School, graduating in 1903. In 1907, she furthered her medical education at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in Scotland. Next, she taught herself German so she could intern at the Vienna Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic. By 1911, these foreign experiences gained her recognition in the States which led to an appointment in Roxbury, MA at New England Hospital. In 1918, Massachusetts General Hospital recruited her as their first female surgical assistant.

In November 1919, the War Work Council in conjunction with the YMCA recruited her to become a traveling lecturer. While many of these conscripted women traveled overseas, Isabelle remained in the States and spoke directly to female workers in the Northeast, many times lecturing groups gathered together on the factory floor. Her lectures covered birth control methods and sexually transmitted disease prevention, a serious problem during the war. The War Work Council didn’t want returning soldiers to be faced with family issues.

I solved the desk’s mysterious origin with research and imagination. Isabelle purchased it during her last lecturing trip to New York City. Sitting in her private examination office on the four hundred block of Beacon Street in Boston, the desk watched her become renowned for her specialty treating boils. Then came penicillin in the early 1940s, ending her successful career.

David Ter-Avanesyan, designer of my outstanding book cover, selected an elegant desk of similar vintage. Isabelle’s desk has a carved tulip on its hutch, which I imagined as an inlaid quartz tulip. Spiritualists believe quartz provides a channel for a medium.

The desk has no paranormal capabilities. When I sit at it, I imagine a great woman making history against all odds.

Published On: March 30, 2024Categories: Author0 Comments on The Desk that Inspired
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