A prairie woman of strong convictions: Dr. Almeda Haldeman.
I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.” So said Gloria Steinem, the American feminist, activist, writer, and founder of Ms. Magazine.
Did Almeda Haldeman ever stop to ask herself the question of how to balance family and working life, while weathering events such as the Great Depression?
Almeda Jane Haldeman, born prematurely on March 19, 1877, was incubated for the first few months of her life in a warm oven.(1) Raised under primitive circumstances in the depths of Minnesota, she dreamed of going to high school, but, typical of the era, her father was opposed to educating girls. In August 1900, she married John Haldeman, and the couple had two children, Joshua Norman and Almeda Rowena.(1)
When John contracted diabetes mellitus, for which there was then no treatment, Almeda accompanied him to Minneapolis in 1905 to see chiropractor Dr. E. W. Lynch, founder of the Chiropractic School and Cure. While there, she studied for a chiropractic diploma, and learned how to adjust her husband herself. During their formative years, she regularly adjusted her children, for whatever ailed them. Two years later, the Haldemans emigrated to Herbert, Saskatchewan, where she was, as many think, Canada’s first chiropractor. Almeda also started up a small restaurant and boarding house in that community to help make ends meet.
It is not clear to what extent she practised chiropractic in Herbert. Joshua recalled that one of his mother’s first patients was a young medical doctor who would one day deliver four of Almeda’s grandchildren.
Though grief-stricken after John’s untimely death in 1909, Almeda trained to be a teacher, and taught at local schools in the Donnellyville School Division. In 1915, she married Heseltine Wilson, who was able to make enough money from farming the Haldeman homestead to send Joshua and Almeda to school. Two more daughters, Annie Madge and Nelbert Elizabeth, were born into the family.
Almeda’s own health concerns led her to seek continuous chiropractic care for most of her life. Requiring gallstone surgery, she travelled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, in 1927, after which she was confined to bed for three years. At the age of 71, she died in Herbert of viral pneumonia.
After a blow to the head during a game of shinny at school, her son, Joshua, began to experience failing eyesight.(2) He was sent to Palmer School of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, for treatment. Happily, his vision normalized, and he later became a student at Palmer. Opening a practice in Regina in 1926, he was a figure of national stature in Canadian chiropractic until 1950 when he relocated his family to South Africa. Also a private pilot, Joshua flew his aircraft from South Africa to attend chiropractic events as far away as Norway and Australia. Tragically, he died in an airplane crash in 1974.(2)
Scott Haldeman, who has achieved international eminence as a neurologist and a chiropractor, is the son of Joshua and Winnifred Haldeman.
Almeda Haldeman embraced the circumstances that female chiropractors might face today such as marriage, children, illness, widowhood, single parenting, and work. A moral woman of strong convictions, she was active in her community and church. She belonged to the Temperance Movement, and she promoted women’s right to vote. According to Joshua, “no one was ever allowed to drink, smoke, use improper language or tell shady stories in her house. Playing cards and medicines were prohibited”.(1) She also encouraged her second husband’s entry into local politics. Heseltine Wilson became a town councillor in Herbert in 1916, then reeve.
The determination and courage required of this prairie woman cannot be contained within a sketchy biography. Though she did not achieve fame through a large practice or a college of her own, or even one named after her, Almeda helped establish a chiropractic presence in this country during economically challenging times.•
1. Haldeman S. Almeda Haldeman, Canada’s first chiropractor: Pioneering the Prairie Provinces 1907-1917. Chiropractic History 1983; 3(1):65-67.
2. Keating JC Jr., Haldeman S. Joshua N. Haldeman, DC: The Canadian Years, 1926-1950. JCCA 1995; 39(3):172-186.
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