Through artifacts I found in some family trunks, I discovered that my great-great grandmother was a self-made patent medicine millionaire named Mrs. Dr. Rebecca J. Keck in Davenport Iowa from 1873-1900; becuase of the controversy & scandal attached to her achievement, her career has been more or less wiped out of the historical record, but she may have been one of the most successful female entrepreneurs of the 19th century, right in there with Lydia Pinkham and Hetty Green. (Then her kids lost most of the money with bad investments in Chicago real estate…unfortunately!) So Mrs. Dr. Keck is coming back to life in my current book, which I just published, which tells why she sent her fourth daughter to Vassar in 1884:
The Quack’s Daughter:
A True Story About the Private Life of a Victorian College Girl
by Greta Nettleton
Raised in the gritty Mississippi River city of Davenport, Iowa, 19-year old Cora Keck was sent east to Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1884 to salvage her family's scandalous social reputation. Cora could have walked straight out of a Susan Glaspell story; her mother, Mrs. Dr. Rebecca J. Keck, made herself into the Midwest’s most notorious businesswoman by defying the medical establishment in four states during a lucrative career that lasted from 1873-1900. Cora’s great-granddaughter, Greta Nettleton, rescued a 19th century trunk on its way to the landfill 125 years later and discovered a trove of diaries and scrapbooks preserved inside. Set in an era of surging wealth torn by political controversy over inequality, women’s rights, and widespread panic about domestic terrorists, The Quack’s Daughterilluminates the life of a spirited and charming heroine who ultimately faced a stark life and death crisis that would force her to re-examine her doubts about her mother’s medical integrity.