I owe a huge tip of the hat to my editor pal Carol Traver for steering me in the direction of BRAMWELL. This series originally aired on TV (somewhere–I don’t remember seeing it, so I suspect it might have been in the UK), but it’s WONDERFUL.
The protagonist is Eleanor Bramwell, a female doctor in the 1890’s–at a time when women weren’t even allowed into some operating theaters. Female doctors were hard to find, but Eleanor follows in her father’s footsteps and opens a free medical clinic, called “the thrift.”
What’s fascinating about this series is that it accurately (as far as I can tell) depicts the fashions, medical knowledge, and mindsets of the late nineteenth century. You’ll be amazed to watch Eleanor operate without gloves, and hear one of her father’s friends explain that European Caucasians are the superior race because their brains are bigger. You’ll gasp (I did) when a colleague explained that women can’t be doctors because their brains are smaller, and you’ll groan when a patient’s heart stops and no one thinks to pound his chest.
I’m almost through season two (and I think there are four seasons all together), but I really love this series. Some parts are universally timeless–for instance, Eleanor is torn between her career and her desire to have a husband and family. How can one woman possibly have it all? We’re still trying to figure that one out.
I love the fashions (where can I get some mutton sleeves?) and the genteel pace of life depicted in those days–in the upper class, that is. How did they fashion those elaborate buns on the backs of their heads? Yet the series pulls no punches about how hard life was for the working class and the poor.
One caveat: if you’re at all squeamish about the sight of blood and body parts, you’d better close your eyes, because this series is amazingly bold in what it shows onscreen. But if you’re like me and you want to see all, you’ll find your wishes gratified. 🙂
BRAMWELL–I rented it from Netflix, so check your favorite video outlet and enjoy!