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Reyersbach, - Gertrud C. Reyersbach Pediatrician — Prudence Steiner first knew Dr. Over the next 30 years, the two Boston women became such good friends that Reyersbach asked Steiner to be an executor of her estate.
And she knew that being available, calm, realistic, reassuring was more important than having a tidy office and fancy equipment. Her patients and their parents, who represented the whole social, economic, racial, religious spectrum of Boston, picked their way anxiously into her old-fashioned office littered with toys, and emerged feeling better. Reyersbach — with a young patient. She was a fighter from the start and came by this trait naturally. Her great-grandfather and his family moved from Bavaria to Oldenburg, Germany, at the start of the nineteenth century and prospered, integrating themselves fully, they thought, into their small city.
Her father and his brother had a dispute with the local rabbi too intolerant, they decided and after that the Reyersbachs, though they never forgot they were Jews, went their own way. They had an English nanny for Gertrud and her brother, whom they sent to the best school in Oldenburg; they were so sure of themselves that when Gertrud decided she wanted to go to medical school no one discouraged her.
She was tough, bright, independent, and clearly attractive Berthold Brecht, whom she met in Berlin, wrote a sentimental message for her in one of his books.
Her professors admired her; in one of them wrote, "I would be very happy if Miss Reyersbach would succeed in completing her studies despite the different regulations. In she went to England where cousins had established themselves, to investigate opportunities there. Then she heard that her uncle had been arrested by the Nazis and had died in prison.
Forty-eight years later Oldenburg named one of its streets for him. She returned to Germany and managed to bring her widowed mother to England where she would be safe. Her brother escaped to South America. Gertrud realized that there would be little opportunity for her to practice medicine in England, and in May sailed to the United States.
She was thirty years old, five feet four inches tall, fine-boned and elegant, a fully qualified pediatrician with special training in endocrinology and rheumatic diseases. In the course of the next three years she had to be recertified as a physician; she had to persuade the American immigration authorities that she was not a threat to the nation; she had to decide where to work.
She came and lived in the hospital for eight years she was one of the first women residents there. I had a room to myself. And of course I was always there for the really interesting cases.
Guide to the Papers of Gertrud Kurth (1904-1999)1877-1996AR 10905 / MF 961
Her first paper to be published in the United States, on rheumatic fever in children, appeared in She followed this with papers on persistent infectious diarrhea in infants ; on brain damage in juvenile diabetes ; on a link between excessive vitamin A intake and bone deformation ; on inherited kidney disease In The Boston Globe ran a front page article on her research into the relationship between estrogen and height in young girls; the photo shows her at an uncharacteristically tidy desk.
She taught Harvard medical students, some of whom impolitely called her "Auntie Gedda" behind her back and went on to greater fame. She moved into a one-room apartment near the hospital so that she could get to her patients no matter what the weather.
One mother of a croupy child remembered that she made a night-time house call on a cold January evening Dr. Jones, are you the person whose child ate some strange berries? Jones, "and I know I forgot to leave my name.
Gertrud C. Reyersbach, 1907 - 1999 | Jewish Women's Archive
How did you find me? No, louder than that, please. Reyersbach retired at the age of 80, her patients, who sometimes included three generations of the same family, gave her a party.
The album they compiled for her bulges with photos, notes in the straggling letters of first-grade students, doggerel, drawings, tributes to a woman who was responsible for saving their lives and their sanity. The lad who had not felt a single shot wrote, "I liked all the toys in your office but actually my favorite thing was you.
Reyersbach had told me she approved. So was I, turning to her for advice about matters far removed from runny noses or childhood diseases. She helped me choose a bathing suit: As close as we were, we maintained the formal conventions with which we had both been brought up: Steiner, she was Dr.
Reyersbach, no matter what experiences we shared or subjects we discussed. Gertrud Reyersbach, daughter of a rebellious Jewish family in Oldenburg, was the kind of Jew and the kind of physician whom Maimonides would have recognized and saluted.