(From Manhattan Tribune-News September 18, 1951)
Quite without reason, probably, the average mental picture of a woman physician is of a severely tailored, rather masculine person with thick ankles and a brusque voice.
But readjustment comes quickly when one meets Dr. Belle Little, with her soft voice, feminine clothes and gentle ways.
But dr. Belle, as she is known, keeps a rigid schedule of office hours after 44 years of general practice. Though she never has specialized, most of her work now is confined to children and pre-natal care.
"I let someone else take care of the deliveries now to eliminate night practice," she says.
The daughter of Dr. F.C. Little, pioneer physician who came to Manhattan in 1866, Dr. Belle was graduated at Kansas State College and received her master's degree there. After subsequent graduation from the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, she served a one-year internship in the Women's and Children's Hospital in Boston before beginning here practice here.
The greatest medical advances during her span of activity have been, of course, in the field of the "wonder" drugs, Dr. Belle says, though there have been exceptional strides in surgery techniques, for instance, heart surgery.
"But, it is a continuing marvel," she says, to see such diseases as pneumonia, which previously the physician watched for weeks with mounting anxiety, come under control of the new biologics in a week's time or less. Only a physician who worked without them can appreciate this fully."
Being a physician is a full time job, the doctor asserts. There are no half-way methods. It is all or nothing.
"It takes courage to practice medicine," she goes on. "The responsibility for human life is a load that cannot be shrugged away. A physician should, in the first place - have no less than average intelligence, he must have the basic scientific training and he must be interested in people. Not just a selected group of people, but all classes.
"There is something to interest one in every living soul," she adds firmly.
Sometimes one hears, Dr. Little added, of a woman doctor who has had a successful career as a physician while bringing up a family or her own. This looks like an impossible feat, she believes, unless the woman kept only office hours from the start and delegated a part of her maternal duties. Motherhood is a full time job, too, she points out.
But if Dr. Belle herself has seen enormous advances in the practice of medicine it was here father, she recalls, who had to struggle through the lean years of the nineteenth century before diphtheria anti-toxin - one of his own daughters died of the disease - with limited surgical techniques and without X-ray. His work was successful, however, and he himself lived to the age of nearly 97, his death occurring in 1932.
The large oil painting in Dr. Little's living room is of her maternal grandfather, her mother's father, who, a man of nearly 60 when his youngest child was born, was 32 at the time of the death of Paul Revere! One of his brothers was on board ship with Capt. James Lawrence at Boston Harbor when the latter voiced the famous cry, "Don't give up the ship.!" In fact he received the famous officer's belt from the hands of the dying hero.
Dr. Little's mother was sheltered as a child, never learning to cook or sew or keep house, since there were grown sisters who qualified for such duties. So she determined later that her own daughters should know the housewifely arts.
"And we did," Dr. Belle explains. "I studied domestic science and art at K-State and I even make some of my summer clothing now. Let me show you -."
And she brought out a dream gown of an imported eyelet touched at hem and sleeves with narrow net ruffling, all needled in by hand. The gown is exquisitely made and would cost a your fortune in any "little salon" of the nation.
"I always have loved pretty, appropriate clothing," she admits, "and I have indulged this tendency so far as possible. "But of course," she said a bit ruefully, "there never has been much need for evening dress."
Dr. Little built her present home at 120 S. Delaware in 1938 in a setting she has kept as "woodsy" and natural as possible. Of native stone, with enough brown-stained blocks added to give a patina of age, the house fits into the setting like a veteran. In the back yard humming birds spend the summer and cardinals dart among the trees. There are flowers and there are vegetables, especially tomatoes, of which 31 quarts were canned this year.
How long will Dr. Belle go on practicing?
"As long as I am useful," she smiles.
That, it would seem, will be a very long time indeed.