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Frances Proctor Ames papers

 Collection — Box-folder: 1
Identifier: 9-12-1043

Scope and Contents

Physical Collection

The physical collection is divided into correspondence from classmates Louise Downer, and W.O.A. Langs, general correspondence, Medical School documents, notes, and pamphlets. Pencil marks, tape labels, and post-its with estimated dates were added by granddaughter, Helen Allen. Tape labels were left on Mylar sleeves. Post-its were photocopied and original notes were discarded. All copies are filed with originals.


All documents from the physical collection are represented on the CD-ROM, but not in the same order. The files on the CD-ROM are divided into two main folders, "fanny medicine 2" and "Louise D letters." "Fanny medicine 2" is further divided into "misc. fanny medicine," "Olean form," "RX," "small notes," "thesis," and "W.O. Lang letters." Most correspondence files are named according to date of origin. Other document files are named using most obvious headers or first word(s) of the document.


  • 1882-1948


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The Frances Proctor Ames Papers, 1882-1948 are open for research.


Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

Frances Proctor graduated from the University of Buffalo's Medical School February 24, 1885 at the age of 28. Frances, often called Fannie or Fan, was born in Farmersville, NY on November 28, 1856. Her parents, Silas Americus and Martha Baldwin Proctor, moved their family to a farm in Portville, New York in 1862. It was there where Fannie was first introduced to the idea of becoming a doctor. Her mother, Martha, had a great interest in medicine and aided the community during sickness and birth.

The acceptance of women in medical school was hardly commonplace, but New York State and the University of Buffalo proved to be somewhat progressive regarding this issue. The Medical College of Buffalo, as it was originally called, was founded by an innovative group of doctors who wanted to see medical training move from small towns to larger cities, in the hope of developing teaching hospitals. Further forward thinking allowed Mary Blair Moody to become the first woman to graduate from the University of Buffalo Medical School in 1876. This opened the door for a small group of determined women like Frances who attended the school nine years later. Physiological and moral arguments were made against women participating in the medical field; it was said that they were physically, mentally, and emotionally incapable of being good doctors and in addition, it was inappropriate for women to discuss or dissect male bodies. There was, however, a growing acceptance of women practitioners in the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Frances was one of three women to graduate in the class of 1885. Her thesis was written on eclampsia, which is a potential pregnancy complication.

While at UB, Fannie first met fellow classmate and roommate, Louise Downer. The two struck a life-long friendship and they corresponded for the next forty-five years until Louise's death in 1929. After graduation, Fannie went to Oswayo, Pennsylvania to practice medicine. While in Oswayo, she corresponded with Dr. John Eddy from her hometown of Portville who acted as her mentor offering advice and help should Fannie need it.

In 1887, she contacted at least two medical schools in Pennsylvania asking about a state examination that would validate her New York State diploma thus endorsing her medical practice in the state. In the end, Fannie did not take the exam as the events in the next year appear to have ended any chance of her practicing medicine.

In April of 1888, Fannie's sister-in-law died leaving a year-old daughter. Fannie returned home to Portville to help take care of the child.Then, only a year later, her brother died as well. During this time at home, she corresponded with Eugene Ames, a man she had met while living in Oswayo. Fannie and Eugene were married in December of 1889.

The Ames remained on the Proctor's farm in Portville where they raised three children. After her husband, Eugene, died in 1939, Fannie lived with her son, Harlan until her death in 1948 at the age of 92.

In 2023, University at Buffalo graduate students Allie Fuller and Lawrence Lorraine Mullen collaborated with University Archives and the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection to complete a digital humanities project mapping Frances Proctor Ames and Louise Downer Benzing as they moved throughout Western New York during the 19th century. "19th Century Medical Women: Tracing Frances Proctor Ames & Louise Downer Benzing Through Western New York" combines digital scans of archival material, narrative text, and an interactive map of Western New York to tell the story of these two medical professionals.


0.42 Linear Feet (1 half manuscript box)


The personal correspondence of Frances Proctor Ames, 1885 graduate of University of Buffalo's Medical School.


Collection is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically.

Acquisition Information

Collection donated by Helen Allen, granddaughter of Frances Proctor Ames, on January 2, 2006. Allen also had the collection scanned onto CD-R, which she donated along with the originals.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Alternate Forms

Collection has been digitized and is available online at Frances Proctor Ames digital collection.

CD-ROM filed in CD-ROM box.

Related Resources

Another Era : A Pictorial History of the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, State University at New York at Buffalo, 1846-1996/ Ronald Elmer Batt, Harold Brody, Shonnie Finnegan, Richard Vaille Lee, John Naughton, Lilli Sentz, Connie Oswald Stofko, Joyce Vana, 1996.

19th Century Medical Women: Tracing Frances Proctor Ames & Louise Downer Benzing Through Western New York

Processing Information

Processed by Erin Verhoef, February 2006.

Finding Aid for the Frances Proctor Ames papers
Finding aid prepared by Erin Verhoef.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)