Who was Gertrude Elinor Sturges?

Gertrude Elinor Sturges was born in Norwood, New Jersey on March 21, 1887.  Her parents were Arthur Dimon Sturges and Iantha B. Wescott.  Iantha was born in New York and Gertrude’s father, Arthur, was born in Mansfield, Ohio to Edward and Mary (Mathews) Sturges.  According to Edward’s obituary, he arrived in Mansfield around April of 1820 at the age of 14, and joined his brother, E. P. Sturges’s business.[i]  Edward and his brother, Eben, would go on to be some of the most successful businessmen in the young city of Mansfield.


Arthur Dimon Sturges and Gertrude’s older brother Herbert

Gertrude carried on the prolific lifestyle of her ancestors.  In the 1900 U.S. Census, she and her family are shown living in Painesville, Ohio.[ii]  According to her obituary, Gertrude graduated from Oberlin High School in 1903 and continued her education in that city, graduating from Oberlin College in 1908.  In 1913 she obtained her medical degree from the Cleveland Pulte Medical College, which would later become The Ohio State University College of Homeopathic Medicine.[iii]  Gertrude had always had an interest in physical training and, for at least one season, was the girls’ basketball coach in Mansfield.   In the February 11, 1905 edition of the Mansfield News, she is “given the power to select the varsity team.”[iv]  She was also captain of the Inter Class Girls Basketball team in 1908 at Oberlin[v] and coached the Moorhead Normal women, who swept both NDAC and Fargo College teams in every 1916 match.[vi]


Gertrude, center, at Oberlin College


Moorhead Normal School, 1916

Gertrude’s obituary states that “in 1917-1918 she had charge of muscle-training at the American Baby Hospital, Brooklyn, N.Y., and treated more than 1,300 polio cases.”  She would later work for the New York Academy of Medicine, become “assistant director of the Cleveland Hospital and Health Survey, and assistant director of the Chicago Medical Plan Commission.”  In 1925 “she became executive secretary of the Committee on Maternal Health in New York City. In 1929-30 she assisted in the organization of the first international conference on mental hygiene.  She conducted a number of studies of the biological aspects of overpopulation.”[vii]  Dr. Sturges was an early advocate for the use of birth control.


Gertrude, abt. 1919


Gertrude’s French Drivers License

Dr. Sturges was a consultant for the American Public Welfare Association and urged, in a 1940 journal article for the Social Service Review, that the “most fundamental and urgent need of public medical service today is to improve our administrative organization”[viii]  “Dr. Sturges was honored by the American Public Welfare Association in 1965 at a luncheon in Wakefield, where she received a resolution citing her ‘development of appropriate principles, policies and procedures, at a time when the field of medical care in public welfare was an unmarked wilderness.’”[ix]


Gertrude’s business card


Dr. Gertrude Elinor Sturges, date unknown

Her passport applications indicate her work took her all over the world.  She traveled to England, Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.[x] [xi] [xii]  Dr. Gertrude Sturges died on October 25, 1968 at Wakefield Manor, a rest home in Wakefield, Rhode Island.


[i] The Mansfield Herald, 19 SEP 1878.
[ii] Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004
[iii] The Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Oberlin, Ohio, February 1969, pp. 37-38.
[iv] The Mansfield News. 11 FEB 1905, pp. 9.
[v] Oberlin College Yearbook.  Oberlin, Ohio. 1908-09.
[vi] Shoptaugh, Terry L. and Dille,, Roland 1924-2014, “MSUM memories 1888-2013 : reflections of the college and the university” (2013). Histories of MSUM. 8.Retrieved from https://red.mnstate.edu/histories/8
[vii] The Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Oberlin, Ohio, February 1969, pp. 37-38.
[viii] Sturges, Gertrude, Social Service Review, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Sep., 1940), pp. 501-508.
[ix] The Oberlin Alumni Magazine, Oberlin, Ohio, February 1969, pp. 37-38.
[x] National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 577; Volume #: Roll 0577 – Certificates: 32500-32749, 28 Aug 1918-29 Aug 1918
[xi] National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1347; Volume #: Roll 1347 – Certificates: 86376-86749, 31 Aug 1920-01 Sep 1920
[xii] National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2227; Volume #: Roll 2227 – Certificates: 270850-271349, 18 Apr 1923-19 Apr 1923