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Who is Dr. Elizabeth Kane?

You may have seen her here at Feldspar Gallery hanging nonchalantly on the wall watching over the gallery, depicted in striking black and white, her hair covered in a bonnet. Her name is Elizabeth Denniston Wood Kane, also known as Dr. Kane.

Dr. Kane watching over Feldspar Studio & Gallery
Dr. Kane watching over Feldspar Studio & Gallery

Kirsten Bowen depicts Dr. Kane through her signature use of plaster and words. Embedded in Dr. Kane’s image are snippets of her story: “Attended the female medical college of Pennsylvania. Wrote political works, supported women’s suffrage. Passed through enemy lines to doctor her husband. Documented Mormon life. Contributing founder of Kane, PA and its 1st hospital.” These are only a few of her accomplishments.

Dr. Elizabeth Kane was a woman ahead of her time, as was her husband Thomas L. Kane. He supported his wife in ways that men in the 1800’s generally didn’t. He knew that Elizabeth was thoughtful, eloquent, and intelligent and encouraged her intellectual pursuits, arguing that they were more important than her responsibilities at home. He encouraged her to publish her journals and letters about their travels and to continue her education for which her reward was becoming a medical doctor in 1883.

Photograph of Dr. Elizabeth Kane from By Charles Roscoe Savage - Kane Family Photographs, CC0,

Having a doctor as a wife would come in handy for Thomas L. Kane. Thomas enlisted in the Civil War and was injured behind enemy lines. His wife, Elizabeth received special dispensation to cross enemy lines so that she could tend to her husband’s medical needs. In addition to her skills as a doctor, Elizabeth was also an early advocate for women’s rights and a photographer. She also helped to reform housing for juvenile delinquents, and was a gifted writer.

Her talent for writing led to a published book: Twelve Mormon Homes Visited in Succession on a Journey through Utah to Arizona. Although neither she nor her husband were Mormons, her husband was sympathetic to their plight and took several trips to the West in order to help Mormon settlements. Elizabeth went with him and through personal musings, interviews with the men and women of the Mormon faith, and notes on the homes where the couple stayed, she compiled enough material to be published.

To top it all off, Thomas Kane and Dr. Elizabeth Kane are also the founders of Kane, Pennsylvania. The town which would become Kane had been their settlement after the Civil War and where they raised their four children, three of which became physicians while the fourth graduated from Princeton in Engineering.

So, why is a portrait painted by Kirsten Bowen of Dr. Kane hanging in Feldspar Studio & Gallery? Well it turns out this extraordinary lady is Kirsten’s great, great, great grandmother! How cool is that?

Kirsten Bowen hard at work, just like her great, great, great grandmother!
Kirsten Bowen hard at work, just like her great, great, great grandmother!

Dr. Kane is available at: Her portrait would be a great addition to any collection. Dr. Kane’s strong and bold spirit has been captured by her great, great, great granddaughter and the snippets of her story in the painting are just the beginning of her remarkable tale!

Dr. Kane by Kirsten Bowen
Dr. Kane by Kirsten Bowen

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