Spokane, Washington’s, first woman physician, Mary Archard Latham moved to the community with her three sons—leaving her husband behind in Ohio—in 1888. She sought a better climate for her health and worked tirelessly for the health of all of Spokane’s citizens, but particularly women and children and especially the poor. She helped found the Spokane Humane Society and the Spokane Public Library, and she was beloved and respected in the community.
Then, in 1903, one of her sons died and she seemingly became unhinged. She would be seen wandering the streets, wailing and wringing her hands, and her behavior became extremely erratic. In 1905, she set fire to a building and would be arrested and convicted of arson, then sentenced to four years of hard labor in the state penitentiary. She escaped into the forests of Idaho, where she hid from a massive manhunt for a week before being captured and sent to prison in Walla Walla. She eventually returned to Spokane a broken woman and died in 1917. Despite the tragic and violent events that characterized her later years, today Dr. Mary A. Latham is honored in Spokane for the good she did in the first part of her life. Mercy and Madness captures the captivating, outrageous, and sometimes-sorrowful life of Dr. Mary Archard Latham in her own words.
As a member of the fourth generation of an Oregon pioneer family, Beverly Lionberger Hodgins has a distinct interest in all things historical regarding the settling and development of the Pacific and Inland Northwest. She lives in Spokane, Washington and is a distant relative of Dr. Mary Archard Latham.