Living like the pioneers on Women's Day at Mormon Station State Park

GENOA - A century ago Dr. Eliza Cook brought her practice to western Nevada, making her one of the first female doctors in the state.

Today, Cherry Jones will bring Dr. Cook to life as part of Pioneer Women's Day at Mormon Station State Park.

Jones' performance will be followed by a demonstration of old-fashioned soap and candle making.

Cook practiced medicine in the Carson Valley area for 40 years after graduating from Stanford Medical School (which was Cooper Medical School at the time) in the early 1880s.

She thought of herself as the first woman doctor in the state, although a woman had been said to practice medicine in Virginia City one year before Cook began.

"Nobody has any real verification on her," said Jones. "We don't acknowledge her."

Cook was also very active in politics, including being vice president of the Women's Suffrage League and the Women's Temperance Movement. She wrote the essay "The woman yet to come" in 1896, and in 1894 wrote a letter to the Reno Gazette and the Genoa Courier about women's rights.

The presentation will include a skit, in which Jones will act as Cook, then, still in character, she will answer questions from the audience.

"For that time, I will actually be Dr. Cook," said Jones.

Later she will come out of character to answer more questions about Cook.

Lynne Frost, a Mormon Station park ranger said after the presentation, two other women will hold an "old fashioned barbecue" and demonstrate canning foods, making soap, candles and other essentials for the home "pioneer style."

Jones attended a chautauqua workshop when she moved to Nevada four years ago through the Nevada Humanities Committee, and has been portraying Cook regularly around the valley. Before that, she taught preschool and owned a child's bookstore in Palo Alto, Calif.

"I've been a storyteller for many, many years," said Jones, "so this was just a natural progression."

Jones said she has always been interested in history and likes to know the history of the places she lives.

An exhibit about Dr. Cook at the Carson Valley Museum was Jones' first inspiration to portray Cook. "I thought she would be an interesting character," she said. The more Jones learned about Cook, the more fascinated she became with her. She now does mainly Eliza Cook portrayals, although she also portrays Laura Ingalls Wilder from time to time.

"It was hard to find a doctor's bag just like hers. The real one is on display at the Carson Valley Museum," Jones said.

Jones tells stories regularly at the River City Story Telling festival in Reno and will be telling stories at the Douglas County Library for several weeks.

She will be doing another Cook presentation on Aug. 22 at the Carson Bureau of Land Management office and again at the Reno office on Aug. 31.

If you go

What: Cherry Jones portrays Dr. Eliza Cook

When: 1-4 p.m. today

Where: Mormon Station State Park


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