Dr. Clara Shetter Keiser – Medicine During Turbulent Times

The story of Dr. Clara Shetter Keiser, a Berks County woman who practiced medicine during turbulent times in our history, as told by her great-granddaughter, Catherine Shearer, BHC Trustee

“Viola and Walter Shearer were my grandparents and I was recently “reunited” with an artifact found in the attic of the Vinemont house they lived in.

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As pictured above, The Physician’s Perfect Call List and Record, belonged to my great-grandmother, Dr. Clara Shetter Keiser. Starting in January 1919 and ending in 1928, the book intermittently shows the names of patients, amount/debit, and record of narcotics dispensed.

When she started her recordings in the Call List and Record, we were already well into the Spanish flu pandemic (1918-1920) and she lived for another 11 years.  I can only wonder what advice she would be offering to us now!”

Dr. Clara Shetter Keiser (1863-1931), a native of Lebanon County, was “one of the best known medical practitioners of her sex in this section”, as stated in her obituary in the Reading Eagle dated October 6, 1931. “For years she was recognized for her far-reaching activities in the promotion of health and other activities of civic value to the community. Few women, living in this locality, have been as devoted to so many interests outside of those surrounding their own livelihood, and of vital interest to the community, as Dr. Keiser.”

It was also mentioned in the obituary she was one of the first advocates of women’s suffrage in this area.

Clara Shetter graduated in 1882 from the Women’s Medical College, Philadelphia, and served on their staff until moving to Reading in 1886, where she opened an office at Sixth and Washington Streets.  In 1889 she married Dr. James W. Keiser (1860-1904), a well-known local physician, and the son of Hannah Shearer and David Keiser, a Reading carpet merchant and real estate developer.

After her husband’s death in 1904, she continued her career as a practicing physician to support and educate her four children. The three Keiser sons were noted in swimming circles, including the Pennsylvanian Swimming Hall-of-Fame, and the local YMCA, served in the military, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.  Her daughter, Viola Keiser, a 1908 honors graduate of Kutztown Normal School, married Walter J. Shearer, of Vinemont, Pennsylvania.

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