As a genealogist, when I see a headstone with just a date and a surname, my brain starts going into overdrive wanting to know who the person was. This was the case with 3 such stones in our cemetery; I couldn’t believe that this rather unremarkable stone hid such an amazing woman. Today, let me introduce you to Dr. Edith Gould Selleck.
Edith was born March 17, 1893, in Brooklyn to Gould Benjamin Selleck and Matilda Schaffer. She was the youngest of two girls – her sister Louise is also buried in the cemetery. Gould would die sometime around 1900 and the family would move from Brooklyn to Blooming Grove by the 1910 census. Edith graduated from Washingtonville High School and in 1918, Edith went to the Flower Fifth Avenue Hospital in NY to finish her medical training.
The New York Homeopathic Medical College opened in 1860 and was dedicated to a branch of medicine known as homeopathy, a practice developed in Germany in the 1700s that believed that the body can cure itself by giving it small amounts of natural substances to stimulate healing.1 In 1889, the college built the Flower Free Surgical Hospital and was “the first teaching hospital in the country to be owned by a medical college.”2 Following her graduation, she did an internship at the beautiful Park Avenue Hahnemann Hospital which opened in 1878 and “provided free beds… a quiet and comforting home for the sick and suffering of all classes under homeopathic treatment.”3
Dr. Selleck would join the Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital in 1937 and would go on to become its senior psychiatrist (and staff gynecologist) before retiring to private practice. She was active in many professional and business womens’ groups and throughout her career, she spoke at multiple civic, business, and school events on varied topics such as adolescent mental health, menopause, parent-child relationships, and the importance of mental health. She was noted to be an eloquent speaker and stressed understanding when dealing with mentally ill people. “Someone whose mind is sick is mentally ill, just as body ailments made one physically ill.”4
In June 1943, she was called as an expert witness in the trial of Ethel K Craig of Cornwall who set oily rags on fire in the Cedar Crest mansion of her employer, Mrs. Kenneth Miller Cameron in New Windsor. Dr. Selleck testified to the mental health and marital status of Mrs. Craig but it made little difference; Mrs. Craig was convicted and sentenced to 10-20 years and appealed in a 3-year battle but was ultimately re-sentenced.
Perhaps enjoying the freedom of being unmarried and child-free, Dr. Selleck traveled the world and we can follow her through documents to France, England, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas.
She is buried in the cemetery with her mother, Matilda (who was also a nurse), her sister, and her niece & nephew.
4. The Newburgh News, 18 Feb 1954, pg 18, col 4.