“Girls Don’t Do That…”

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Anna Helena Cluthe didn’t subscribe to that way of thinking. Her father, William (1847-1937) was born in Wabern, Germany, where he studied for the priesthood.  He decided on a different path and became a chemist, then went to Paris and later sailed for New York at the age of 20. He graduated from Ohio Medical College in 1875 and opened a drugstore in Cincinnati. He moved to Tell City, IN and practiced medicine there from 1880 until 1911.

Anna’s older brother, Charles F. (1869-1935) was also a graduate of Ohio Medical College and practiced medicine for 40 years. Her younger brother, Walter J. (1882-1937) graduated from the medical school at the University of Louisville in 1903 and was a doctor in Kansas City, MO and Tell City, IN. Yet another brother, Edward C. (1879-1960), although not a doctor, was in a related field—he operated a local salt pool until it dried up in 1937. Salt pools were beneficial to health and well as being fun for recreation.

Cluthe family in their living room in Tell City. Standing in back, from left: Hulda Illing Cluthe, Dr. Charles F. Cluthe, Edward C. Cluthe, Laura Rahm Cluthe. Sitting, from left: Grandmother Cluthe holding Helen, Anna Helena Cluthe with Oramay Cluthe in front, Grandfather Cluthe holding William August Cluthe, Walter J. Cluthe. Grandfather Cluthe would be Dr. William Cluthe and Grandmother would be Lena Cluthe. Source: Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection, MSS 091-043.

Cluthe family in their living room in Tell City. Standing in back, from left: Hulda Illing Cluthe, Dr. Charles F. Cluthe, Edward C. Cluthe, Laura Rahm Cluthe. Sitting, from left: Grandmother Cluthe holding Helen, Anna Helena Cluthe with Oramay Cluthe in front, Grandfather Cluthe holding William August Cluthe, Walter J. Cluthe. Grandfather Cluthe would be Dr. William Cluthe and Grandmother would be Lena Cluthe. Source: Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection, MSS 091-043.

Clearly medicine was in Anna’s blood, and she wanted to follow in her father’s and brothers’ footsteps. Her family, however, had different ideas—they believed the life of a horse-and-buggy doctor was too rigorous for a girl. Nor was being a doctor “ladylike.”  A compromise was reached—Anna could study to be either a pharmacologist or a dentist.  But Anna had a bit of rebellion in her blood—while she seemingly agreed to the compromise, she pursued medical training for 2 years until her family found out and stopped her allowance. She then shifted to dentistry, graduating from Indiana Dental College in 1904.

Anna Cluthe’s graduation from Indiana Dental College, 1904. Source: Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection, MSS 091-035.

Anna Cluthe’s graduation from Indiana Dental College, 1904. Source: Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection, MSS 091-035.

Dr. Anna Cluthe was the first woman dentist in Evansville, practicing from 1904-1960, retiring only when her eyesight was no longer good enough to do this work. She saw a lot of changes in her life time. Before it was commonly accepted, she advocated a good diet/less sugar for preventative care. Her alma mater, Indiana Dental College, which was founded in 1879, was acquired by Indiana University in 1925, becoming today’s Indiana University School of Dentistry.

In 1895, the 1st dental X-ray of a living person was taken. In 1903, Charles Land developed the 1st porcelain jacket crown. A German chemist named Alfred Einhorn developed the 1st local anesthetic, called procain—this became novocaine. Nylon toothbrushes came into being in 1938.  The earliest adoption of water fluoridation, only in a few cities, began 1945, with fluoride toothpaste following in 1950.  1958 saw the first fully reclining dental chair. The Evansville Museum of Arts, History & Science has a section called Rivertown, USA, which provides a slice of life in Evansville/the Midwest in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of these exhibits there is a dental office, furnished with Dr. Anna Cluthe’s dental equipment (seen on right).

Anna Cluthe wasn’t the only woman in her family to be an entrepreneur. Her niece (daughter of Anna’s brother, Charles F.) was Oramay Cluthe Eades (1895-1987). Oramay graduated from Combs Broad Street Conservatory of Music in Philadelphia (founded in 1885, since 1923 the Combs College of Music, closed in 1990). She studied harp and piano, and upon graduation in 1918, joined the faculty.

MSS 091-036

Dr. Anna Cluthe, n.d., c. 1913-1933. Source: Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection, MSS 091-036.

In 1924, she returned to Evansville and opened Cluthe Studios, later the Cluthe School of Music. It started with piano only, but in 1931-1932 voice and violin lessons were also offered. It continued to grow, with the addition of pre-school classes, dancing for children, cello, and music theory, until it became a full school of music. At the time, it was one of the largest private music schools in Evansville.

2. UE Music

University of Evansville Department of Music Seal, n.d. Source: https://www.facebook.com/music.evansville.edu/

The school was located at 1133 Lincoln Avenue, relatively close to what was then Evansville College (now the University of Evansville). “The Cluthe school was for all ages, from the beginner to the advanced.  When the school became affiliated with Evansville College in 1940, the advanced students went to the college and the younger ones remained at Cluthe Hall, which became known as EC Preparatory School of Music. The Cluthe School was donated to EC by Mrs. Eades [Oramay Cluthe Eades] when she retired in August 1942. She gave furniture and music to the college outright.  The 200 students enrolled were transferred to EC. The college had only to buy the building on Lincoln Avenue, and for half the going rate. The sign there then read “Evansville College–Cluthe School of Music.” When the new EC Fine Arts Building was completed in 1962, the prep school moved on campus. The college then sold the building at 1133 Lincoln and the Cluthe name was no longer used” (Jeffries, p. 21).

Dr. Charles F. Cluthe, his wife, Hulda Illing Cluthe, daughter Oramay, and son, William, c. 1900. Source: Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection, MSS 091-020.

Dr. Charles F. Cluthe, his wife, Hulda Illing Cluthe, daughter Oramay, and son, William, c. 1900. Source: Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection, MSS 091-020.

Clearly, girls DO do that!

Resources Consulted:

American Dental Association.  History of Dentistry Timeline.

Browning Genealogy/Obituary Index online

Find a Grave online

Indiana University School of Dentistry—About Us—Background.

Jeffries, Phil.  “EC Music School was Gift—Including 200 Students.” The Sunday Look, October 30, 1966, p. 21.  (in MSS 091-1-3)

MSS 091 (Oramay Cluthe-Eades collection), in University Archives/Special Collections

This entry was posted in Evansville, Indiana, Local history, women's history. Bookmark the permalink.

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