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Harriet N. Austin, M.D.: Timeline

1826: Harriet Austin was born in Connecticut on August 31, 1826. She became the adopted daughter and associate of Dr. James C. Jackson. 

1852: Harriet graduated from Russell Thacker Trall’s New York Hydropathic and Physiological College. She was one of the first female physicians in America to graduate from this school.

  • Russell Trall, M.D., established a school based on Hygienic principles, the New York Hygeio-Therapeutic College. Men and women were admitted equally and graduated with medical degrees. This institute was the first so-called Hydropathic college to ground its students in all the ordinary branches of medical practice, replacing drug treatment with a new system of water therapeutics.

1852: After receiving her degree, she worked as a physician with James Caleb Jackson, who ran Glen Haven, to manage the treatment of female patients. They worked together and wrote a magazine, The Laws of Life and Journal of Health. 

1858: Needing more space, they moved to Dansville, NY, and opened Our Home on the Hillside, which would become the largest hydrotherapy institution in the country, caring for over 20,000 patients. It was situated on the hillside park of 60 acres of woodland and lawn, with water flowing from the mountains, providing spring water. The comfort and welfare of the sick were the first consideration, but every opportunity was provided for those who desired a healthy retreat from the world. The atmospheric conditions benefitted those suffering from liver, kidney, throat, or skin affections. It was renamed ‘Our Home on the Hillside,’ where Jackson worked with his wife and their adopted daughter, Dr. Harriet Newell Austin. The family eventually called it the Jackson Sanatorium, also known as the Jackson Health Resort.

1861: Dr. Austin wrote the book Baths and How to Take Them. In this publication, Dr. Austin describes how baths are used as treatment, along with the patient’s needs, and ends by discussing various forms of bathing treatments.

1872: The Journal Laws of Life and Woman’s Health Journal began with Dr. Austin as editor. It included articles about the water cure, hygiene, dietetics, and general health topics.volume XV, no. 1, XV, no. 3.

1876: Clara Barton came to the clinic to recuperate from years of non-stop travel as founder of the Red Cross. They became close friends during her recovery, and she wrote in her letters a tribute to the qualities and professional abilities of the doctor. 

1881: Clara Barton kept a residence in Dansville for ten years as she began the American Red Cross. She established the first local chapter in the nation in Dansville, NY.

1882: The institution suffered a fire. Harriet didn’t have the heart to rebuild as she was ready to retire, and she sold her interest in the institute to her brother, Dr. James H. Jackson. She continued to write for the magazine of which she had been editor for many years, “Laws of Life and Journal of Health.” 

1891: Harriet died in May in North Adams, Massachusetts, at the age of 65, and was buried in the Jackson lot in Greenmount cemetery.”

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