Skip to main content

Lydia Folger Fowler M.D. Papers

Identifier: SMC-003

Scope and Contents

Lydia Folger Fowler's papers include: several biographies written about Lydia; a letter (original and transcription) to Mrs. Wheaton from Lydia’s sister, M. F. Allen, concerning the donation of “In Memoriam” card (1879); correspondence between John T. Miller and the College Librarian about Lydia (1939-1940); and a copy of The Daisy: a Journal of Pure Literature, which features a portrait of, and an article/obituary on, Lydia.


  • 1838-2005
  • 1879 - 1939


Access Restrictions

No restrictions. Open for research.


Copyright is retained by the authors, or their descendants, of items in these papers as stipulated by United States copyright law.


Lydia Folger was born on the Island of Nantucket on May 5, 1822, the daughter of Gideon and Eunice Macy Folger. She attended Wheaton Female Seminary in 1838 and taught there from 1842 to 1844. She received her M.D. degree from Central Medical College of New York in 1850, making her the second woman in the United States and the first American-born woman to earn a medical degree. She was the first female professor in an American medical college.

Lydia married Lorenzo Niles Fowler in 1844. They had three daughters: Jessie Allen, Amelia and Lydia. Lorenzo, his brother Orson Squire Fowler, and Samuel Wells were all proponents of phrenology and produced books on this and other subjects at the NY publishing firm of Fowler and Wells.Between 1852 and 1860 Lydia practiced medicine in New York City and also taught women as a volunteer at the Metropolitan College.

Lydia traveled to Europe in 1860 to address women on physiology and she spent the winter of 1860-61 studying in Paris. In London she was in charge of all obstetric cases at Marylebone Road Hospital before joining her husband to lecture on phrenology and other subjects across Britain. She praised women as mothers, but also taught that education was something which they owed to themselves and to their children.

When Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton and her husband Laban Morey Wheaton, founders of Wheaton Seminary, visited London in the spring and summer of 1862, they were visited by Lydia, and attended a lecture with her. They apparently counted upon her to help them navigate London and find fellow American visitors. In 1863 the Fowlers opened a London office where Lorenzo practiced phrenology and where Lydia assisted, lectured, wrote and was also active in the British Women’s Temperance Society.

Lydia’s publications include: Familiar Lessons on Phrenology (for Young Readers), 1847; Familiar Lessons on Astronomy, 1848; Marriage, Its History and Ceremonies: with a Phrenological and Physiological Exposition of the Functions and Qualifications for Happy Marriages, 1848; Familiar Lessons on Physiology; Designed to Aid Parents, Guardians and Teachers in the Education of the Young, 1852; Heart-melodies, Poems, 1870; Nora: the Lost and Redeemed, 1863; Woman, Her Destiny and Maternal Relations, or, Hints to the Single and Married, 1864; and The Pet of the Household and How to Save it: Comprised in Twelve Lectures on Physiology, 1885.

Lydia died in London on January 30, 1879 from blood poisoning contracted while caring for the poor.


0.3 Cubic Feet (3 folders)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of M.F. Allen, sister of Lydia Folger Fowler. The reproduction porcelain phrenological head was purchased.

Related Materials

Manuscript Collections:

Wheaton Family Papers: MC.001 Phrenological studies of Laban Morey Wheaton, 1848 and 1854, Eliza Baylies Wheaton, and Laban Morey Wheaton, Jr., 1849.

Lydia Folger Fowler's papers include: several biographies written about Lydia; a letter (original and transcription) to Mrs. Wheaton from Lydia’s sister, M. F. Allen, concerning the donation of “In Memoriam” card (1879); correspondence between John T. Miller and the College Librarian about Lydia (1939-1940); and a copy of The Daisy: a Journal of Pure Literature, which features a portrait of, and an article/obituary on, Lydia.

Phrenological Head (museum quality, porcelain reproduction)

Wheaton Authors Collection:

Fowler, Lydia F. Pet of the Household, a guide for parents on the physical and mental rearing of children

Historical Collection on Women:

1. Fowler, O. S. (Orson Squire) (1809-1887). Creative and sexual science ; or, Manhood, womanhood, and their mutual interrelations ; love, its laws, power, etc. ... courtship, married life, and perfect children ; their generation, endowment ... etc., as taught by phrenology and physiology (Histl HQ31 .F76 1875 )
2. Fowler, O.S. Love and Parentage (Histl HQ31 .F77)
3. Fowler, O. S. Matrimony : as taught by phrenology and physiology (Histl HQ31 .F775)
4. Fowler, L. N. (Lorenzo Niles) (1811-1896). Marriage : its history and ceremonies : with a phrenological and physiological exposition of the functions and qualifications for happy marriages (Histl HQ734 .F73 1847)

Restricted Collection:

1. The phrenologist's own book : a practical treatise on phrenology ; with directions for examining heads, and a description of the requisite instruments (16 cm)
2, Combe, George (1788-1858). The constitution of man : considered in relation to external objects / by George Combe ; with an additional chapter on the harmony between phrenology and revelation by Joseph A. Warne (21 cm)
3. Combe, George. Lectures on: including its application to the present and prospective condition of the United States ; with notes, an introductory essay, and an historical sketch by Andrew Boardman (21 cm)
4. Combe, George. A system of phrenology (21 cm)
5. Cowan, John . Self-help in the attainment of perfection of character and success in life : with a phrenological & physiological chart of the character of ... as given by .. (21 cm)
6. Dumont, Theron Q . Character reading : its theory and practice (21 cm)
7. Fowler, O. S. (Orson Squire) (1809-1887). Fowler’s practical phrenology (21 cm)
8. Fowler, O. S. New illustrated self-instructor in phrenology and physiology : with over one hundred engravings, together with the chart and character of ... (21 cm)
9. Fowler, O. S. Phrenology proved, illustrated, and applied ; accompanied by a chart ... together with a view of the moral and theological bearing of the science (21 cm)
10. Fowler, O. S. Self-culture and perfection of character : including the management of youth (21 cm)
11. Grimes, James Stanley (1807-1903 ). A new system of phrenology (21 cm)
12. The human nature library : New York : Fowler and Wells (21 cm)
13. Sizer, Nelson. Forty years in phrenology : embracing recollections of history, anecdote, and experience (21 cm)
14. Spurzheim, J. G. (Johann Gaspar) (1776-1832 ). Outlines of phrenology : being also a manuel [sic] of reference for the marked bust (21 cm)
15. Wells, Sammuel Roberts (1820-1875). Wells' new descriptive chart : for the use of examiners, giving a delineation of the character (21 cm)
16. Windsor, William (b. 1857 ). Lectures : phrenology ; choice of professions or how to become rich ; matrimony (21 cm)
17. Merton, Holmes Whittier (1860- ). Descriptive mentality: from the head, face and hand; illustrated with over 600 original drawings by the author (26 cm)
18. The Phrenological journal and life illustrated. Vol. 61 old series-vol. 12 new series (from July to December, 1875) / H.S. Drayton and N. Sizer, editors (26 cm)
19. The Phrenological journal and science of health (26 cm)
20. Phrenological Society. Transactions of…, 1824. (26 cm)
21. Sizer, Nelson (1812-1897). Heads and faces, and how to study them : a manual of phrenology and physiognomy for the people (26 cm)
22. Spurzheim, J. G. (Johann Gaspar)1 (776-1832). Phrenology, in connection with the study of physiognomy. Illustration of characters. With thirty-five plates (26 cm)
23. Wells, Samuel R. (Samuel Roberts) (1820-1875). New physiognomy ; or, Signs of character, as manifested through temperament and external forms, and especially in "the human face divine" (26 cm)
24. Porta, Giambattista della, 1535?-1615. Della fisonomia dell' hvomo / del sig. Gio. Battista della Porta napolitano ; Libri sei ; Tradotta da latino in volgare, e dall' istesso autore, accresciuta di figure, & di luoghi necessarij � diverse parte dell' opera .. 1610. (Rest. Oversize)

Processing Information

Processed by: Ashley Kuhn, November 2008

Encoded using Archivist Toolkit by: Hanna Juergens W13, September 2012

Encoding edited by: Megan Wheaton-Book, Assistant Archivist, September 2012

Inventory of the Lydia F. Fowler M.D. Papers
Ashley Kuhn
Novenber 2008
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Marion B. Gebbie Archives and Special Collections Repository

Wheaton College
26 East Main Street
Norton Massachusetts 02766